Shin splints are a common injury where you might feel pain or discomfort on the front of your shin. They’re caused by overuse and poor conditioning, so it’s important that if you do experience them, you know when they can be fixed and get back into action as soon as possible.
Shin splints are a common injury that affects many people.
Shin splints serve as a reminder to exercise in a genuinely healthy and gradual manner rather than starting too quickly, demanding too much of yourself, or neglecting to recuperate enough. Shin splints, one of the most prevalent running ailments, are generated by a sequence of dysfunctional musculoskeletal motions over time.
Shin splints, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), normally develop after intensive physical activity, such as jogging, but they may also occur when you first begin a fitness program. Shin splints, along with ankle sprains, are one of the most prevalent lower leg ailments.
Shin splints may be excruciatingly painful, as anybody who has had them will attest. Shin splints may begin as dull muscle aches in the shins, progressing to minor “shooting sensations” and swelling over time. They usually affect just one leg, the dominant one; however, they might affect both legs simultaneously in certain persons. They may sometimes get so severe that it’s difficult to stand or walk without throbbing.
Shin splints relate to discomfort along the front of the shinbone, which is really the tibia, and are common among runners, dancers, and athletes who overwork their bodies. The tibia is a big bone that runs along the front of the lower leg and links to various muscles, tendons, and bone tissue to aid in movement.
Let’s look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for shin splints (both traditional and unorthodox).
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are characterized by the following symptoms:
- Being unable to walk or run without experiencing discomfort
- Tenderness and soreness in the lower part of the legs (especially the lower third of the shins, in the inside of the calf near the Achilles tendon)
- Aches and pains in the bones and joints that worsen with activity
- Bruising or tiny lumps on the shins
- Standing for lengthy periods causes discomfort.
Shin discomfort might develop quickly when you start a new activity program (such as jogging) or gradually over time.
The tibialis anterior, tibialis posterior, gastrocnemius, and soleus are the four muscles implicated in the development of shin splints, which cause discomfort and soreness. When you walk or run, these muscles in the calf and heel enable the heel to rise and the arches of the feet to roll upward.
When these muscles cease operating as they should, symptoms frequently appear due to competing and simultaneous demands caused by poor running form. In other words, there’s a problem with the way your muscles and bones in your shins and foot operate together.
Three muscle groups usually cause shin splints. The posterior tibialis, flexor hallucis, and flexor digitorum muscles make up the medial group, which runs along the inner (medial) side of your shin. The anterior tibialis, extensor hallucis, and extensor digitorum muscles make up the front (anterior) section of your lower leg. The outer (lateral) side of the lower leg is the subject of the third group. The peroneus longus, peroneus brevis, and peroneus tertius muscles are all involved.
Shin splints are a kind of discomfort that affects the lower inner third of the leg. Tenderness in the posterior medialis and severe pain along the tibia bone or even isolated locations on the bone are all possible symptoms. Shin splint discomfort on the front side of the upper one-third leg is often accompanied by muscular soreness in the anterior tibialis. The peroneus group in the bottom one-third of the leg is frequently the source of discomfort on the outside of the lower leg.
You may either self-diagnose your shin splints or seek medical attention if they become severe. X-rays, a physical exam, and talking to your doctor or physical therapist about previous injuries and your current activity schedule may all be used to diagnose shin splints.
Acute compartment syndrome is often confused with shin splints, which are considerably more prevalent. Compartment syndrome occurs when blood flow to a contained body region, such as the lower thigh, ceases, and the area becomes irritated and inflexible. It’s a far more dangerous condition than shin splints. A stress fracture, which is an incomplete break in the bone, may cause pain in the lower leg, although this is far more uncommon than shin splints.
What Causes It?
Running is the most prevalent cause of shin discomfort. Shin splints may be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Running in poor shape (fallen arches, overpronation, or supination, for example)
- Not allowing yourself enough time to rest between runs
- On firm terrain, running (such as pavements or a track)
- Running uphill or downhill exerts strain on the shins
- Running on shaky ground (like rocky hills)
- Starting an exercise regimen too quickly and not gradually increasing
- Running without stretching or warming up, or not stretching correctly afterward
- Wearing new or worn-out footwear that don’t support your feet or that you haven’t yet gotten accustomed to
If you’re a regular runner, the last thing you want to hear is that running is the source of your discomfort and that stopping for a bit, as well as modifying the method you run, is the quickest way to heal. Running advice for beginners and expert runners are recognizing pain vs. injury and muscle healing.
Why do some runners suffer from shin splints while others do not? A phenomenon known as muscle memory is one of the causes. In other words, your muscles, joints, and bones might recall a previous injury, leaving you more vulnerable to future injuries, wear and tear, or discomfort. Even if you believe you’ve given yourself enough time to recuperate, this is true.
Old calf injuries might result in scar tissue that heals inappropriately. Damage may be caused by body imbalances produced by repeated actions, incorrect running form over time, and not extending your IT bands, glutes, calves, and heels sufficiently. Injury to tissue in the past might make you more susceptible to shin splints than someone who has never had similar problems.
Even if you detect symptoms within a few weeks of starting to exercise, there’s a good likelihood that damage to your lower legs has been developing for some time. Scar tissue from previous injuries may form on your lower legs, setting the stage for future discomfort.
Not allowing your body adequate time to relax is a primary cause of shin splints. We’ve all heard that we need “recovery days” and plenty of time in between exercises to rebuild broken-down muscle tissue. Yet, some individuals continue to push themselves too hard for whatever reason.
On the other hand, Overtraining may result in musculoskeletal disorders that are very painful and take a long time to cure. Shin discomfort is caused by repetitive stress on the connective tissue between the muscles and bones of the shins.
Resting between runs is helpful for reducing shin splint symptoms, but rest alone may not be enough in certain circumstances. The primary issue isn’t solved when you rest if the underlying problem is improper running form or not wearing supportive enough shoes. This is why, for many individuals, shin splint symptoms may go away briefly with rest but resurface rapidly.
Getting Rid of Shin Splints
You may take some basic precautions to prevent shin splints from repeating after you’ve ruled out other reasons for your shin discomfort.
Unfortunately, most specialists feel that stopping running for a while is necessary to repair the muscle and bone. Pain relief might take three to six months after you start making modifications, depending on the severity of the injury and how much you relax.
If your discomfort is severe enough, using over-the-counter pain relievers and icing your shins might help you recover faster. The standard therapy is taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID) like ibuprofen or even Voltaren Gel. Ice packs applied to the afflicted region for 15 minutes many times a day may also help reduce swelling.
Although these shin splint self-care tips won’t assist with the underlying problems, they are the sorts of conservative therapy solutions that are normally recommended. In addition, many additional lower extremity musculoskeletal problems have also benefited from some of these standard therapies.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to treating shin splints naturally:
1. Fix your running form
If the proper running form does not come easily to you, you can learn it. Meeting with a physical therapist who can teach you how to roll your feet while running correctly or watching a video explaining appropriate form at home so you can practice are two of the greatest methods to modify your form.
Elevating the toes, rolling the arches upward (inversion), hitting the ground with the outside of the foot as much as possible, softly rolling the foot inward (eversion), and finally lifting the heel are all part of proper form. You want your heel to rise equally on both sides without leaning too much to one side.
People erroneously run with bad form in a variety of ways, including:
- Because you don’t roll your arches upward and have flat feet, walking causes your arches to collapse.
- Slamming the heel into the ground too hard and without rolling it evenly
- Rolling inward and placing too much weight on the toes is known as overpronation of the foot.
- Not raising the toes, which might lead to frequent trips.
Bad heel form is one of the most important things to fix. Normally, the outside of the foot/heel should make contact with the ground. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls inwards too much, causing the ankle to lose its ability to stabilize the foot and absorb trauma. This posture may also force the toes to do most of the pressing during lift-off, causing additional tension and discomfort.
2. Begin slowly and allow for rest and recovery days
Running while your muscles are already worn out may cause an excessive amount of scar tissue to grow and muscle tissue adhesions to form where they shouldn’t. Start any new workout program carefully, increasing miles or time by no more than 10% per week. After all, it’s far simpler to avoid shin splints than it is to cure them after they’ve developed!
When you suffer a slight rip or injury, your muscles attempt to compensate by overcompensating and generating more attachment sites. Abnormal adhesions that have recently developed increase pressure to the shin bone and strain on the lower legs. Because muscle tissue and bones suddenly interact in ways they shouldn’t, opposing movements might occur.
Allowing your muscle rips to heal correctly can avoid the buildup of scar tissue, so make sure you receive adequate rest in between sessions. You may still exercise without putting stress on your shins by swimming or cycling, for example.
When you relax sufficiently and take a break from jogging, you may discover that your shin discomfort goes away. But, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case; when someone’s form isn’t improved, the recurrence of shin splints symptoms is typical.
3. Vary Your Workouts with Cross-Training and Stretching
If you want to avoid shin splints, try cross-training, which is completing various activities instead of jogging every week. This aids in the development of strength in other places that support you when you run and relieve strain on your shin and heel.
Exercise to strengthen your core, or strength train multiple times per week to develop muscle in your upper and lower body (including glutes and thighs) without putting your shins under stress. Swimming laps, yoga, TRX, riding, or just strolling might help you break up your week.
Make sure you stretch correctly before, after, and in between sessions. For example, toe raises, which are performed by elevating your toes and gently dropping your heels to the floor again and over, are a good way to stretch and strengthen your calf muscles as part of your shin splint therapy.
Kneel on the floor with your legs and feet together and toes pointing straight back to stretch your Achilles heel gently. Next, stretch your shin muscles by gently sitting back onto your calves and heels for at least 12–15 seconds.
4. Experiment with massage therapy and foam rolling
Simple methods for preventing future discomfort and swelling include icing, massaging your calves and feet, and foam rolling. These may help with more than just shin discomfort; they can help with pain all throughout the legs. In addition, if muscle injuries (broken-down muscle fibers resulting from activity) aren’t moved around, the adhesions between tissues might become stiff and securely linked.
Adhesions may be broken up by safely moving muscles. Therefore, massage the calves first, according to certain massage therapists and physical therapists.
Placing the foam roller on the floor, situating your body on top of it, so the roller is beneath your calves, and rolling back and forth is calf treatment with a foam roller. You may also do this on the back or sides of your calves. It may feel tight or unpleasant, but this is a positive indicator of avoiding future discomfort.
Roll the region for 30 to 60 seconds, then rest for the same amount of time. Ideally, do this for five to ten minutes per day.
5. Put on supportive footwear
Certain footwear is better than others at supporting your shins and feet when it comes to exercising. When buying shoes, speak with a professional so they can correctly measure you and examine your arches. Wearing footwear designed for your particular activity or sport, as well as changing your shoes when they’re worn out, which for runners is normally every 350 to 500 miles, is an essential aspect of shin splint therapy.
If you have flat feet, you may also buy supportive insoles to put inside your footwear. The usage of shock-absorbing insoles has been shown to help prevent shin split discomfort in military soldiers. These may even be custom-made to suit your feet perfectly and improve bad form.
Other treatments for reducing inflammation and swelling around broken bones and muscles include compression stockings and compression wraps.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do shin splints take to heal?
A: It is a very common question, and it can vary depending on the severity of your injury. Sometimes, shin splints will only take one day to heal, while other times, they may take as long as two weeks.
Is it good to rub out shin splints?
A: Unfortunately, this is not a medically recognized treatment for shin splints.
- what are shin splints
- what causes shin splints
- stretches for shin splints
- how to treat shin splints
- how to prevent shin splints
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