Shin Splints

written by Kerry Gustafson

As cooler autumn weather arrives, it seems to be the perfect time to head out on the trails for a long run. Whether you are running to simply run or you are preparing your legs for turns down Baker in just a few months, nothing puts a damper on those plans like the striking pain of shin splints.

Posteromedial tibia stress syndrome, known to most as ‘shin splints,’ is caused by repeated stress and inflammation of the muscles, tendons and bone tissue around the tibia – where the muscle attaches to the bone. It is very common in runners and jumpers and dancers with a 13-17% occurrence rate. 

KEY POINT: It is important to know the difference from a stress fracture

  • stress fractures are usually a specific point of pain over the bone and can keep you up/awaken you at night,
  • shin splints are more of a stretched pain lingering down the entire shin. In the beginning symptoms may subside after activity has stopped. Over time the pain can become continuous.

The most common factors leading to this over-use injury are:  

  • 1
    improper shoe wear
  • 2
    muscle imbalance
  • 3
    lack of stretching 
  • 4
    non-gradual training  

There are times when the pain does not subside from basic treatment and rest. We may want to make sure you do not have a stress fracture – this can be caused by stress and overuse of the area. An MRI may be suggested to help diagnose a more consistent pain.

Although treatment for both shin splints and stress fractures can heal with a combination of rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, stretching, physical therapy, and modifications in training; it is always best to avoid this painful diagnosis all-together. For runners, shoes need to be switched out every 300-500 miles, or every 4-8 months.

With simple modifications such as properly fitting footwear, cross training and slowly building your fitness level, you may avoid this pain creeping into your legs.

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