You’re running along enjoying the day and it occurs to you: your shins hurt when running. Tempted to run through the pain? Depending on how bad the pain is and a few other factors, running through it may not be the best option.
How do you know if you have shin splints? Can you avoid shin splints? Are there other shin issues that cause shin pain? Can it be prevented? Is there something I should be doing differently? All excellent questions!
Why Do My Shins Hurt When I Run?
Most runners assume that if their shins hurt while running, they have shin splints. Actually, there are a couple of other ailments it could be.
One possible shin issue is compartment syndrome. What happens in there is where muscles swell within a closed compartment. This creates pressure which in turn causes pain. Some symptoms that point to compartment syndrome are unusual nerve sensations, leg pain and after a while, muscle weakness.
In mild cases, the runner’s pain can improve with show inserts and anti-inflammatory drugs. Athletes with more severe cases of compartment syndrome often need a surgical release of pressure.
A runner can also get a stress fracture in the shins which will cause pain. Far more serious than shin splints, the runner needs a bone scan to diagnose the stress fracture. Where pain of shin splints is usually more generalized, a stress fracture typically has a “hot spot” where you can pinpoint the pain.
One other method of telling the difference is a stress fracture typically feels better in the morning after being off of it all night. Shin splints are often worse in the morning.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Often shin splints are caused by overuse. One way to avoid shin splints is to be sure you aren’t increasing your mileage too quickly. Remember, a customary rule of thumb is to only increase overall weekly mileage by 10% at a time. Trying to increase too much too fast can result in injuries such as shin splints.
Athletes who do high impact activities are more likely to get shin splints than those who participate in low impact activities. Running is obviously one of these activities.
In addition, running with bad form can cause shin splints. Runners who overpronate or supinate can also be susceptible, which is one reason support shoes have risen in popularity.
Ways To Avoid Shin Splints
✓ Increase mileage gradually (by 10as% each week).
✓ Run on softer surfaces. It is helpful to switch up your surfaces, especially if you are doing high mileage. Grass and dirt, for example, are a bit easier on the body than asphalt or cement.
✓ Cross-training is another tactic. Especially if you do a non-impact activity such as swimming or cycling.
✓ Strength training is helpful in avoiding shin splints. There are ways to strengthen and stretch that will help you stay on track and avoid shin pain and injury.
✓ Proper running shoes are also a good idea. Don’t skimp on shoes. Get yourself fitted so your shoes fit properly and if you start to experience pain and the shoes are getting old, replace them.
Symptoms of Shin Splints
Signs you may have shin splints include a dull ache that appears in your lower leg in the front. The pain may be directly on the shin bone, or on either side.
It also may present with muscle pain and slight swelling. Your shins may hurt after running also.
Home Remedies For Shin Splints
If you suspect you have shin splints you may want to take a few days off and see if that helps. In addition, you should also check the mileage on your shoes. A good rule of thumb is to always track the number of miles on each pair of running shoes. There are apps that track mileage that will also do this for you.
You can ice shin splints in a few ways. One way is a point of pain contact. Runners take small, paper cups, fill them with water and freeze. You can then peel back the paper and push the ice cup down on the shin splint where it hurts. This can help lessen pain.
Some runners find that compression helps, such as a calf sleeve or compression socks. Other runners use tape to help manage pain.
Can You Run Through Shin Pain?
It is not advisable to run through shin pain. Typically they worsen if the problem is not addressed. If you make some changes at the first hint of shin pain, however, then maybe you won’t be sidelined for more than a couple of days.
How Do Runners Strengthen Their Shins?
If you’re looking to strengthen your shins, there are some simple stretches and exercises you can do.
One exercise is the calf stretch. With your heel on the ground put your toes up on a wall. You can add or remove pressure from your calf by flexing the foot and adding weight.
Another exercise for shin splints is also good at strengthening ankles. With your toe, outline the alphabet. After doing that with one foot, switch to the other.
Resistant band wipers are exactly what they sound like. You place your foot in a resistance band and move the foot like a windshield wiper from side to side. Switch to the other foot.
Foam rolling on the calves and shins is another good exercise. And while you are at it, keep rolling. Your hamstrings, glutes, quads and other muscle groups will thank you. In fact, most of us do not use this tool enough.
Prevent and Pay Attention
As you can see, paying attention to your shins is a good practice. If you are tracking mileage on your shoes, running with shoes appropriate for your feet and gait, and regularly stretching and foam rolling, you are putting yourself in the best position to avoid injury.
Needless to say, you can do everything right and still end up hurt. This is why it is important to listen to your body and when it starts to tell you to take a break: listen. In the long run, pulling back on your training when your body asks you to will probably end up costing you less lost mileage than forging ahead.