It Was The Attack of the Killer Shin Splints!
I’m working with a great group of new runners in my Runaway Moms class. While some are more experienced runners, others are completely new to running, and are getting active after a long period of inactivity. Those novice runners are being attacked – attacked by the Killer Shin Splints!
So, as a running coach who loves research and information, I’ve been hard at work earning my Ph.D. in shin splints! Let’s look take a look at this very common running injury.
Shin splints are pain in the lower part of the leg, typically in the front of the lower leg, or the shin. They are small tears in the muscles that connect the lower leg muscle to the tibia, the shin bone. In runners, we frequently see shin splints because the calf muscle in the back of the leg becomes stronger than the muscle on the outside of the shin. So, it makes sense that you would see this as a common affliction for new runners.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin Splints (refer to it as “tibial stress syndrome” if you want to impress your friends and worry your mother!) are caused by either too much impact on the lower leg (most often heel strike running), or overuse of the lower legs (pushing off too much with the toes to propel yourself when running). Other factors that can cause shin splints are ill-fitting shoes, running downhill, running on uneven surfaces, or any increase in physical activity where the muscles and tendons struggle to keep up with the stress that is placed on them.
Who Gets Shin Splints?
All athletes can suffer from shin splints. However, beginning runners commonly experience this problem because almost all beginning runners push off with their toes (overuse of the lower leg) or they start off running too fast and too far.
You Can Just Run Through Shin Splints, Right? (aka “I’ve Made A Huge Mistake.”)
Well, yes and no. If the shin splint pain is relatively mild and occurs at the beginning of a running season, then experienced runners should be able to run through it.
However, if the pain is severe or if it continues beyond a reasonable amount of time, you should NOT just run through the pain. You’ll need to take the appropriate steps to help your body recover. To try to “run through the pain” is always a bad idea. Doing so could lead to more serious injury and a much longer recovery time (worst outcome ever for a runner in training, right?). You might end up saying, “I’ve Made a Huge Mistake.”
Note: I can’t let a post go by without a shout out to my favorite cancelled TV show that just released a new season on Netflix (Arrested Development).
How Do I Treat Shin Splints?
The good news is that there are lots of steps you can take to treat this muscle injury. For just about any muscle injury, you can apply the RICE protocol. RICE is an acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
- Rest: If the pain is severe, you may need to consider stopping running for a short period of time.
- Ice: Ice the affected areas 3 times a day for 15 minutes. Take ibuprofen as directed to reduce muscle inflamation.
- Compression: You can tape your shin with athletic tape (and there are some really awesome brands out now), or wrap it with an ACE bandage to compress the affected area. This will feel really good, and it may help you be able to run. Another good idea that I’ve seen work is trying a compression sleeve for the affected leg or legs.
- Elevation: You’ll want to elevate your leg when you are resting it or icing it. Optimally, you want to position yourself so that the injured area is higher than your heart.
In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how to prevent an attack of the Killer Shin Splints. Until then, run on!
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