Shin splints is one of the most common injuries that plagues endurance athletes, most notably runners where it accounts for 12-18% of all reported injuries (Wilder & Sethi, 2004) not to mention it is also more common in women.
Seeing as we are not running any training sessions until the New Year we thought it'd be a good idea to give all your runners out there some advice on how to manage the symptoms or even better prevent shin splints occurring altogether.
Causes of Shin Splints
So what is the generic cause of shin splints? There are a variety of causes, but it tends to revolve around a series of similar issues:
1. Increase in training load too much, too soon.
2. Poor biomechanics, due to hip, knee & ankle restrictions.
3. Incorrect footwear.
4. Limited muscular endurance around the shin.
The damage that has occurred is usually focussed on the inner or outer side of the shin bone and is a series of micro-traumas that has inflamed the muscular and connective tissues around the shin, including the periosteum (lining of the bone). This results in a dull ache on the inside of the shin that is worsened by impact such as running.
Strategies to Improve Symptoms
1. Rest, reduce the amount of training volume immediately - duration depends on the intensity of the pain but an immediate rest from running should be adopted.
2. Icing, the shins immediately after exercise and anywhere between 2 and 5 times a day will help reduce imflammation of the site. Each icing session should last around 20 minutes although an ice 'massage' (cup filled with ice rubbed on the shin) can greatly reduce icing time to around 5 minutes per session.
3.Stretching, a series of tight muscles reduce ankle mobility and increase loading of the shin.
Gastrocnemius (calf) - straight leg heel drops.
Soleus - bent leg heel drops
Plantar Fascia - push toes into the floor.
4. Rolling/Massage - use a foam roller to roll the calf muscles individually, pause on knots for 10 seconds.
- use a golf ball to roll to sole of your foot, 4 times with toes down, 4 times with does down.
- self massage along the tibia with thumbs.
5. Strengthening - eccentric calf raises to strengthen calf muscles.
- barefoot hops in every direction to strengthen the muscles of the foot.
- toe raises on a step to increase anterior tibialis strength.
6. Ensure that your shoes are the most appropriate for your running gait and the surface you're running on (avoid hard surfaces).
7. Running mechanics - this is an aspect that needs to be guided carefully to ensure acurate technique is followed for drills such as high knee runs, straight legs, bum flicks etc. Consider attending a Friday Night Track Club to follow some technical drills and calf activation exercises.
When you return to running do so gradually, avoid hills and hard surfaces and consider grass running or intervals. Ensure that you warm up appropriately with drills and continue with the strategies detailed above to become injury free. Increase your mileage by around 5% per week.
So over this festive period, Train Hard!