Shin splints are the bane of many athletes and runners, leaving them out of action for days or sometimes months. Shin splints also are known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), which is a catch-all term used for all lower leg pain that occurs below the knee, either from the anterior shin splints (outside part of the leg) or the medial shin splints (the inside part of the leg).
Common in runners, shin splints occur when one does not build their mileage gradually or in those who abruptly change their workout routine. Suddenly adding too much mileage or changing your running surface can lead to the inflammation of the periosteum- a thin sheath of tissue that wraps the shin bone or tibia. When affected the muscle gets inflamed as a result of small tears which pulls the muscle off the bone. Watch the video featuring sports scientist, Shayamal Vallabhji where he explains the reasons for shin pain and shin splints, the symptoms associated with it and how to have a speedy recovery. With a few ultramarathons to his name, Shayamal has worked with many athletes on performance enhancement and injury management.
The pain points
If pain occurs when you run a little or when you keep your feet down off the bed in the morning, you may already be putting too much strain your shins. Shin splints are painful tears in the muscles that surround your shin bone. Typically pain will radiate from the shin area and spread towards your knees and ankles as the injury gets exacerbated. Never run with a painful shin, no matter how committed you are.
The road to recovery
Firstly, rest as much as you can without getting bogged down by the missed runs. Remember if you aggravate the shin injury, you could be looking at shin fractures or stress fractures. Do not worsen the pain by continuing to run. If you feel the need to be active, walk. But at an extremely light pace.
After consulting with an orthopedic, wear an air-cast ankle brace that will help stabilize your ankle and make sure your steps are not causing more harm to your legs.
For mild pain, drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, should be enough. These will help you reduce pain and swelling. But do consult a physician if pain persists beyond a reasonable time after taking the drugs.
Pay more attention to your shoes and strides. Once you start running again, pay close attention to details such as your strike zone and the number of strides. Never get back to running full steam immediately after recovery. Follow a gradual recovery process and your shins will return stronger. Make sure your shoes are not actually causing you to run with the wrong form. They can play a major role once you have already got some running experience under your belt.