One thing that I see all of the time is athletes coming in complaining about shin splints. For anyone who has ever had shin splints, you know what a major pain they are.
For most cases of shin splints, there are only a few things that I can really do: prescribe rest from high-impact, repetitive activities. Or activity… There really only is one activity that is the culprit behind shin splints: running.
Running is one of those activities that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love it when I finish a long run, but at 5am when I leave my house for a morning run before work, I might actually hate it. It really only takes a few minutes for that feeling to leave, but there definitely are moments when it is not my favorite.
I have been running for years and have proudly told The Unlucky that unlike them, I have never had shin splints.
But last week, something changed. I started to feel a dull aching throb develop in my posterior tibia (inner shin bone). I thought that maybe I had bumped my leg on something, but after a few days, it became clear that I had joined the ranks of The Unlucky.
So now, feeling a lot more sympathetic with those who have a shin splint problem, I’ll offer some advice to those of you dealing with this maddening injury.
First, it is important to understand how shin splints develop. Most of the time they develop because athletes ramp up their mileage or intensity too quickly for the body to adapt healthily.
Another common reason is footwear that was not designed for your body’s unique needs. A lot of times running shoes have been used for far too long for them to effectively protect your feet from injury. Replacing your running shoes every 500+ miles is a good rule of thumb.
These problems can cause tiny stress fractures in the tibia or irritation in the lining of the muscle. Once these problems happen, you have shin splints.
The bad news is that if you try to train through the pain, you can actually create a full-on fracture in your leg, which will halt your training for much longer than you would like.
So now that we know how shin splints develop, let’s talk about what can be done to get rid of them.
The best solution is rest. It is maddeningly difficult to stop your training (trust me, I know), but it is the only real solution that will help your body to heal and get you on your feet again.
I recommend about two weeks of rest. But this doesn’t mean sitting on your couch doing nothing but watching Sports Center… Make sure that you maintain your fitness doing low-impact activities like swimming or biking.
After those two weeks, you can get back to your training, but make sure to take it slow! You don’t want to get re-injured and start back at square one.
So happy healing to all you members of The Unlucky Club out there! I feel your pain. Literally.