The Lowdown On Shins

Ever had Shin Splints?

If you have, you’ll know exactly how painful, annoying, frustrating and debilitating they can be.

But what are they? And what can you do about them?

Firstly, the term “Shin Splints” is a very general term we use to describe pain originating from the shin area (Tibia). We can actually break this complaint down into three possible conditions.

1. Compartment Syndrome

2. Periostitis

3. Stress Fracture

I’ll explain each one and tell you what you can do about them.

1. Compartment Syndrome is something that happens when a group of muscles in your lower leg become engorged with blood from over exertion or from trauma, or they muscles have become so tight that they occupy too much space within the very defined space they are given within the facial compartments of the leg. If acute trauma has caused the swelling to occur, this is considered a medical emergency and you should go straight to hospital (you don’t want to know what happens if you don’t…).

Treatment for Compartment Syndrome can be quite straight forward if you get to it quickly. The trick is to get some targeted deep tissue massage, Dry Needling is helpful, as is regular stretching and foam rolling. There are 4 compartments in the lower leg, the most common location for this complaint is the anterior compartment, which is just to the outside of your shin.

2. Periostitis is inflammation of the periostium, which is a thin sheet that lines the shin (Tibia) bone. The muscles in behind the shin pull on that bone lining and cause irritation and pain. The two muscles in particular that tend to be the problematic ones are the Tibialis Posterior and the Soleus. Tibialis Posterior specifically is very much responsible for controlling over pronation. So if you are someone who tends to over pronate, you are much more likely to develop Periostitis. This is yet another reason to work on strengthening your feet and ankles. And no, using orthotics doesn’t fix the problem, it just shifts the load to another area which will create its own issues. Treating Periostitis should involve firstly reducing the tension in the offending muscles with massage and stretching, RockTape is often a great help, ice can be used when the pain is really bad, and then correction of the cause of the increased tension. This will often involve improving the way we run with better technique and using exercise to correct foot postural issues such as flat arches, over pronation, etc.

3. The cause of a stress fracture is probably pretty obvious. There is increased stress or pressure on joints and bones and this may lead to break down. Often the trigger is poor biomechanics, inappropriate load (too much training), or poor bone health (nutrient density). Once a stress fracture occurs, the only real way to fix it is to reduce the stress on the bone and allow it to heal.

So, why am I telling you all this?

Because I see so many people suffer with so called “Shin Splints” and end up doing the wrong thing at the wrong time and prolonging their suffering.

Really the best thing you can do is take your shin pain to someone who knows what they are doing, and then of course follow their instructions.

This complaint doesn’t have to be the end of your running.

 

Run long,

Shaun Brewster.

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