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Shin splints... what to do when running hurts!

If you’ve ever had them, then you know they’re the pits. No, not a migraine (although, that is also the worst)—we’re talking about shin splints. That nagging pain concentrated in the front of your leg along the tibia, shin splints are usually experienced during and after exercise and when you press on the affected area.


In less common cases (about 10 percent), the tightening pain can be felt in the soft, outside, muscular part of the shin. The pain is usually bad enough that running becomes impossible, and then it subsides when you stop running.

And now that the weather is warming up and the sun is shining more and more, injuries like shin splints can crop up if you ramp up your mileage too quickly. If you experience them this summer, we’ve got you covered on how to treat shin splints and how to prevent them in the first place.



Shin splints have derailed many an athlete’s hard-won training gains. They’re among the most frustrating injuries because they make a basic act—running—impossible. But the term ‘shin splints’ actually denotes more than one lower leg ailment.

Bone-related shin pain, called medial tibial stress syndrome, can cover a broad spectrum of ailments, ranging from a stress injury (irritation of the bone) to a stress fracture (an actual crack in the bone). The area hurts during and especially after exercise, and the tibia hurts when touched or tapped.


Bone-related shin pain is more common than muscular shin pain (by about nine to one); the bone actually swells and, if irritated for long enough, a stress fracture can occur. It’s generally the result of three variables: body mechanics, amount of activity, and bone density. Body mechanics include foot type, foot strike, and how your body is built. Activity can cause it if you up your training workload too soon. Bone density can be a bigger factor for women. All three of these variables can be altered or compensated for to help alleviate the problem.


Make sure to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. Stress injuries can become stress fractures, which can sideline you for a long time. Also, it’s critical that you employ dynamic rest. Find another activity that doesn’t load your legs. Swimming and stationary cycling are good choices.

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