What are shin splints? How do you get them? How do you avoid them?

Whether you’re new to running or you’re a seasoned sprinter, the excruciating pain of shin splints is enough put anyone off the sport.

Whilst they usually aren’t serious, the pain is difficult to ignore and the problem may get worse if you do. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful article, to help you identify how to get rid of shin splints, as well as their causes and how you can prevent them.

What Are Shin Splints?

The term ‘shin splints’ refers to the pain experienced in the shins, or lower leg pain, that’s usually caused by exercise.

If you’re not sure if you have shin splints, there are a few tell-tale signs to look out for, including:

  • Pain in the lower legs starts soon after exercise
  • Pain is dull, to begin with, but may become sharper
  • Affects both shins
  • Pain is felt over a large area of the shin, rather than a small area

Shin splints, also referred to as ‘medial tibial stress syndrome’, can be experienced by both beginners and long-term runners, and is usually remedied with resting for a few weeks. However, more harm may be caused by running through the pain, so it’s important to identify the root cause to avoid any further damage.

Common Causes of Shin Splints

The pain arises from increased pressure on the shin bone, as well as the tissues attaching the shin bone to the surrounding muscles. This excessive force causes increased swelling and pressure on the bone, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Shin splints are most commonly experienced by runners because of the repetitive weight bearing on the legs, however, there are several factors that may increase your risk of experiencing shin splints.

A sudden change in activity level, such as running too far or too fast, too soon; or starting a new exercise routine, can cause shin splints. As well as:

  • Running on uneven surfaces
  • Wearing ill-fitting trainers
  • Running on hard surfaces

Making small changes to your exercise routine or workout-wear could help improve your situation and reduce the risk of experiencing shin splints, however, there are some factors that are beyond our control that make some more prone to these pains than others.

Those with flat feet, tight calf muscles, weak ankles or tight Achilles tendon may have a higher chance of getting shin splints, however, there are steps that can be taken to prevent these frustrating pains.

Preventing Shin Splints

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting shin splints. Wearing shoes that offer good support and shock absorbing insoles is a great place to start when preventing shin splints, as well as stretching and warming up before exercising.

Alternatively, gradually increasing exercise intensity rather than doing too much, too soon, can help to reduce the stress on your shin bone that causes these pains.

Whilst getting shin splints can be a frustrating experience, don’t let it deter you from achieving your goals. Understanding your body better can help you prevent these annoying pains so you can get out there running again in no time!

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