Shin Splints: The runner’s curse


Ever go for a run and feel your shins throb and ache afterwards?? All you did was run down the driveway to move the car before the street sweeper came, but somehow this caused distress to your shins. Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) occurs when the connective tissue that attaches the muscles to the shine bone have become inflamed. The muscles have been overworked. The painful sensation will let you know.

There are a few circumstances that can cause this. Your shoes might not be the best fit and need to be replaced. You might have weak ankles, core muscles, or hips. Flat feet could be the culprit in which the arch on the foot has collapsed. Lack of stretching can also cause this condition. The surface you run on should also be considered as risk increases on uneven terrain, hills, and concrete. Taking a prolonged break from exercise and then transitioning back in can lead to shin splints. This sudden change is shock to the body. Shin splints can even be painful to the touch.

Most of the time, shin splints will heal on their own. This takes time. Icing can also help alleviate the pain. Taking a cup, filling it with water, and then using the top exposed surface to massage the shin area is an effective icing mechanism. Using a baseball or hard surface tool on the area will help with breaking apart the facia. This should be repeated a few times per day. Keep the inflammation down by elevating when off your feet. If flat feet are the case, then insoles or orthotics can be used. People heal at different rates usually ranging from 3 to 6 months. Because this is a common occurrence for active people, trying to be less active but not stopping, typically prolongs complete recovery. Shin splints are also common when a person just begins an exercise program after a long period of inactivity, so easing into the process is recommended versus long distances. Taking time away from the causing activity is important to not aggravate the problem further and to help with recovery. For runners, try using the bike or swimming as an alternative for the time being. Try to eliminate the contact with surfaces that pounds the joints and muscles. Some people claim treadmills cause them, while others claim it’s the concrete. Pick your poison but make the adjustment quickly.

If shin splints continue to linger, more serious cases can evolve to becoming a stress fracture. The more miles you accumulate the more likely you can become prone to shin splints. Those who have had them fear their return, so always recognize triggers and avoid these situations. Your lower legs and pain threshold can only take so much. Shin splints ignite the love hate relationship with activity, but your body is resilient and will find a way to adjust and adapt despite pesky splinters that will try to slow you down.

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.