Shin Splints FAQ

Why do my lower legs hurt when I run?

Often shin splints cause this pain. This is an overuse injury that leads to pain due to the pull of the muscle on the tibia, or shin bone. The muscle fibers have microtears that lead to significant pain with use.

What can I do to prevent them?

Prevention is aimed at staying fit and limber. If the leg muscles are stretched and strong enough, shin splints are less likely to occur. Often, they can occur when the muscles of the hips and thighs are weak as well. Preventing shin splints is also achieved by easing into new running activities. Doing twenty 100-yard sprints, running multiple 5k races, or jogging a marathon after sitting on the couch all winter can cause this pain fairly readily.

How can shin splints be treated?

Once they occur, it is imperative to stop running and decrease impact activities. As with any inflammatory condition, ice is the first step to decreasing pain. The same stretches and exercises used to prevent the condition can be used to treat it so, often, physical therapy can help overcome the pain. Swimming, water aerobics, and cycling are all good cross-training activities to maintain strength while decreasing impact during this period. Once the pain is gone, increasing running workload by 10% per week is your best bet to prevent recurrence.

I keep getting shin splints. What am I doing wrong?

This is generally a combination of problems. Focusing too much on running can predispose someone to shin splints at any time. This is why cross-training is important; to make your muscles more balanced and stronger overall. The correct shoe type must be worn, as well. Pronators, who may be at more of a risk to start, need more control from their shoes while supinators need significantly more cushioning at heel strike. Running exclusively on roads also can cause problems by creating a functional limb length discrepancy, where one leg functions as a shorter leg because it is always uphill. It is wise to avoid running this way.

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