By Natalie Martos
Are you a runner? Or just have this annoying pain in your lower leg whenever you work out or run? Is the pain on the inside of your leg? Does it feel tight? This could possibly be shin splints. Now just so we are clear the term “shin splints” is a generic term for medial tibial stress syndrome, MTSS. The cause of this, unfortunately, cannot be determined by one sole factor because everyone’s bodies are different. We are all made a different way, yes we have all the same components however, some individuals have flat feet, others have a high arch, some have weak hips, and others have poor ankle mobility.
What I can tell you is what occurs when you get shin splints, aka MTSS. Micro tears occur along the front portion of the shin bone. You have a muscle called the tibialis anterior. It begins to pull away from your shin bone and this is what is causing the pain. Now, as I said earlier the cause could be from a variety of factors. For instance, shin splints could be due to change in intensity, overtraining, footwear, poor mechanics, muscles imbalances, etc. The list could go on and on. So considering all the different factors that could cause this, imagine trying to treat it.
Best advice is start with the least expensive routes and less invasive treatments. You can reduce the intensity or frequency of your workouts, purchase new or different shoes. Be sure to try them on and make sure you feel comfortable wearing them. Great tip I once got, if I wasn’t comfortable walking around the store in them, then chances are I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing them out. Also mix up your routine, run one day and swim or bike the next, and it would be beneficial to incorporate strength training as well.
As a runner, myself and someone who knows the importance of stretching and foam rolling I highly encourage you to do the same. The shin splints could be coming from tightness in the posterior chain of the leg, i.e. your calf thus reducing the mobility in your ankle leading to the anterior chain.
One of the best things to do for shin splints is to ice. With shin splints the muscle, tendon, bone and surrounding tissue is inflamed, so the best thing for it is to ease up, ice and reduce that inflammation. There are some experts out there that also recommend wearing compression socks or tape while running for 3-6 weeks to prevent your tissue to pull away even further.
The human body is a complex machine and there can be many moving parts to it. This is why I feel trying the simplest things first and see if you improve. This will help that way if you have created a well-rounded stretching, rolling, and workout routine, and have good footwear then you know the cause is stemming from something else.
Now things not to do and signs you shouldn’t avoid. If you feel pain this is your body’s way of saying something isn’t right. Don’t push through it and don’t ignore it, because I did and it lead to a muscle herniation and compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome in your lower leg can be dangerous, especially if it’s acute. Consult your trainer, doctor, contact an expert in the field. Don’t just WebMD yourself and think the answer will be there.
If you have any questions or think you might have shin splints. Next time you’re in the gym ask one of our trainers. We will more than happy to help you determine what the cause is or how to reduce the pain.