So you want to get in shape, lose some weight, go on your long walks or just want to run further but the front of your leg hurts whenever you exercise. We get how frustrating this can be! You may have what we call shin splints – it is one of the most common lower leg injuries.
All types of shin pain are commonly categorised under the vague term ‘Shin Splints’. This may refer to any lower leg pain that occurs below the knee, either on the inside of the leg (medial shin splints) or outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints), which are frustrating for many active people such as athletes, runners, dancers and tennis players.
TYPES OF SHIN SPLINTS / SHIN PAIN:
Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS)
The person who suffers with MTSS complains of scattered pain along the inside border of the tibia. Pain usually decreases as the person warms up and stretches. Most can usually complete their exercise or run but pain gradually recurs after exercise and is worse the following morning.
A stress fracture presents as a scattered, localised, intense, sharp pain on the tibia surface (largest bone of the leg). Pain is constant and increases during exercise and is usually at its worse during high impact activities such as jumping or running.
Chronic exertional compartment syndrome
Compartment syndrome can be defined as increased pressure within a closed muscle group, causing reduced blood flow to the soft tissue and subsequently leading to pain because of the lack of blood supply. This may be chronic (>3-4 months) or acute (<4 weeks). Symptoms often affect both legs and there is usually no pain at rest. It also presents as a tight ache that gradually builds up 10-15 minutes after exercise, and then decreases with rest.
WHAT INCREASES YOUR RISK OF GETTING SHIN SPLINTS?
A number of risk factors may contribute to increasing your risk of getting shin splints. Shin pain is considered an overuse injury, and often arises in those who increase their activity regime too suddenly like a beginner runner who have built their mileage too fast or even in the experienced runner who has suddenly changed their running regime (e.g. changed the surface, suddenly running up hills etc).
On most occasions this frustrating pain arises from a combination of many risk factors, these are:
✖ Excessive pronation or “turning-in” of the foot
✖ Training loads have increased too fast too suddenly
✖ Footwear not supporting the foot enough
✖ Training surface
✖ Muscle weakness
✖ Muscle tightness
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO RELIEVE THE SHIN PAIN?
It is recommended that when shin splints strikes, you should stop your activity completely and/or decrease your training, depending on the extent and duration of the pain and training. It is important to return to activity gradually, no more than 10% increase each week.
In order to prevent shin splints from recurring, the risk factors above must be addressed first. Here are some simple things you can do to help relieve your shin pain:
✔ Apply ice to the area to help reduce inflammation
✔ Apply compression to the area to reduce swelling
✔ Cross train – e.g. swimming, cycling
✔ Reducing or altering your training plan
✔ Incorporating strengthening exercises for the lower leg into your training
✔ Taping to support your foot
✔ Using a foam roller and/or massage the lower leg
✔ Stretching the calf muscles of the affected leg
IF SHIN PAIN PERSISTS WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
If you’re still struggling to get relief, chat to your coach/personal trainer/GP and see if he/she can recommend a local Podiatrist to help so you may learn what you can do or can’t do to get you back to an active life without pain again.
At The Footcare Clinic we often help clients with this challenging problem. Our treatment regime would include a combination of the following:
– Biomechanical assessment – Observing your posture and the way you move on your feet.