Runner with shin splints

With Marathon season underway and the weather warming up, lot of us are dusting off our running gear and heading outside.

Running has fantastic health benefits, it’s easy to do and it doesn’t require much equipment or a gym subscription. However, if you’re new to running – or you’re getting back into it after a break – it’s really important to have a steady training plan for building up the miles.

Training errors such as sudden spikes in your distance, pace or insufficient rest days may ‘overload’ the shin bones causing pain in your lower leg that most people refer to as shin splints.

The pain and swelling felt when you have hurt your shin bones will ease with rest but may flare up again frustratingly the next time you try to get out for a run. Left untreated it can become more severe and may eventually led to stress fractures of the shin bones.

Tips to help your shin splints heal

As with other types of sports injury you can relieve pain by applying an ice pack and taking painkillers but you must stop running and allow a minimum of 2 weeks’ recovery time, allowing any inflammation to settle fully.

At our Cambridge clinic we recommend resting until you can press on the bone without any tenderness and hop on the spot at least 12 times confidently and without any pain. Switch to lower impact activities such as cycling or swimming in the short term to maintain your fitness levels.

How to prevent shin splints – the underlying causes

While training errors are often a large factor, there are other things that may contribute like:

  • Worn out, unsupportive trainers
  • Tight or weak calf muscles
  • Over-striding (poor running technique)
  • Running mainly on hard surfaces
  • Flat feet
  • Weakness around the hips

If you don’t address all the underlying factors, then your shin splints are likely to come back again.

A sports physiotherapist will assess your individual weaknesses and movement patterns. They should prescribe a programme of targeted exercises to address any problems and make sure that you return to running again with a progressive plan for loading your shins in the right way so your symptoms don’t return.

Strengthening exercises to prevent shin splints

Here are three of our favourite exercises for runners to practice on their rest days:

Single leg heel raise

Single leg. heel raise strengthening for shin splints

Keep your pelvis level and take your weight onto one leg. Press up onto tip toes keeping your knee straight. Repeat 15 times

Single leg sit to stand

Single leg sit to stand exercise for shin pain

 

Exercise for preventing shin pain

Stand up from a chair on one leg, then squat slowly to lower yourself back down to the chair with control. Repeat 10 times

Single Leg bridge

Hip strengthening to prevent shin pain

Take home message:

Shin splints are a common injury particularly in runners and continuing to train will make things worse and can result in stress fractures of the shin.

Sufficient rest, strength and conditioning exercises and the right loading programme for returning to running is really important.

An experienced health professional will help you identify and address all the contributing factors to prevent recurrence.

Get in touch if you have any questions at all,

The Physiofit Team!