When the phrase “shin splints” is used, it is viewed as a generalization of a dull chronic pain that someone experiences in either one or both of their lower legs. The term “shin splints”, more frequently referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome in the medical community, refers to a type of pain that is likely resulting from excessive stress absorbed by a variety or combination of tissues that make up the lower leg (bone, tendon, muscle). Most commonly seen in distance runners, the pain can present itself first thing in the morning upon getting out of bed, in the middle or at the end of a long run, and sometimes if persistent enough, even with light jogging and walking. If you have been experiencing such pain for more than a few weeks, seek medical evaluation from the appropriate health care professionals to ensure the proper treatment/care plan. Progressive cases of this type of pain pattern can result in stress fractures or other related injuries that require extensive time away from running activities and training. When noticing these symptoms initially, do not just “tough it out” and dismiss what your body is feeling, earlier intervention of these pain patterns is always a key component to managing and reversing the effects felt during “shin splints”.
If you have a prior history of “shin splints” during previous seasons, or if you would like to take preventative steps to minimize the chances of experiencing medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), here are a few tips to stay ahead of the curve….
- Wear Properly Fitted Shoes – When buying shoes at a store (we recommend a run specialty store like Big River), have an associate help you decide the correct size and style of shoe that meet your needs (i.e., a narrow fit versus a wide fit, high arch vs low arch, pronator or supinator). If you have relatively flat feet, you may want to consider wearing a shoe or inserts that have a supportive arch.
- Gradually Increase Your Training – Don’t try to do too much, too fast. This is especially important for athletes who transition immediately from one sport season’s end into their next with little or no time off in between. Harder training surfaces will place a greater stress on your feet, ankles, and lower legs if you have not properly acclimated (i.e., a dirt or grassy trail produces much less force through your lower body versus the asphalt or concrete on a road or sidewalk).
- Spend Extra Time on Lower Body Strength/Flexibility –There are many reasons why the overload of stresses can be accumulating along your shin, and meeting with a professional to assess your movement deficiencies is the best option to help identify and address the problem. A common source occurs from a deficiency of strength and flexibility in the lower and upper leg muscles. By maintaining lower body soft tissue mobility and adequate muscular stability, the repetitive forces received during running activity are more evenly dispersed throughout the entire lower body and not centrally located to the lower leg region. Along with regular stretching habits, try incorporating a foam roller or lacrosse ball along tight areas through the hips, thighs, lower legs and arches of your foot.