Lets talk about the pain in your shins

With the weather being as lovely as it is at the moment we are sure you are finding more ways to be active outside. Maybe its walking, maybe you are lucky enough to live by the sea or maybe you have taken up running.

If so there is one question you might be asking

what's the deal with the pain in my shins?

In an ideal world, being physically active would only ever be about the good stuff! Unfortunately, while the benefits of regular physical activity are so worth it, injuries are a fact of life sometimes. Here we talk about the most common leg injury among runners – shin splints.

Q: What are shin splints?

A: Shin splints is the common name for something called medial tibial stress syndrome. The tibia is the big bone in your leg AKA your shin bone and it bears a lot of the brunt when you exercise! Shin splints likely come about because of too much stress on the tibia. This stress comes as a combination of the force of your weight on the bone and working muscles attached to the bone pulling on it. The stress creates tiny areas of micro-trauma which, combined with the bone’s response to try and counteract the tress, results in pain.

Q: Do I have shin splints?

A: There are a bunch of risk factors for developing shin splints. The first is being female – not really much we can do about that! Other factors such as the way your feet are aligned, lots of rotation movement in your hip joints, high BMI and being new to physical activity also put you at higher risk of developing shin splints. Running on tough surfaces like concrete and wearing old or the wrong kind of running shoe probably won’t help the situation either!

Shin splints will show themselves as pain at the front of your shin bone. The pain usually starts a little way into exercising but as it gets worse it may start earlier and earlier. The pain is usually focused on the bottom part of your shin bone and you may also notice some swelling around the bone. There are no specific medical tests to say definitively if you’re suffering from shin splints but it’s always better to get a doctor’s opinion just to make sure and to rule out any other causes of leg pain.

Q: What can I do about them?

A: If you haven’t got shin splits keep in mind these tips to keep you that way:

  • Make sure you wear good, supportive footwear. If you’re shoes are too old or don’t fit properly, they ain’t supportive!

  • Get the anatomy of your foot reviewed by a podiatrist – the way the anatomy of your foot is aligned may put you at great risk of developing shin splints and most of the time it can be easily corrected with orthotics or insoles.

  • Work to strengthen ALL the muscles of your leg, especially the smaller ones around your hip and in your foot, so that one is not way strong than the others and can pull more on the bone – a good physio or PT can help you find the right exercises for you

If you’ve got shin splints you need to take it seriously and treat them properly. This is NOT the time to push through the pain as you may be headed right towards a stress fracture if you do! Treatment includes:

  • Rest – Rest from weight bearing exercise. Swimming and cycling are still fair game to keep up your fitness! You should have at leave a week of pain-free days before you GRADUALLY start to do any weight bearing activity

  • Ice

  • Pain relief – Panadol and Nurofen rule here

  • Some strapping techniques to support muscle attachments to bone can help

  • Once you’ve treated shin splints properly, consider some of the preventative measures listed above

  • Stretch, stretch and strech again. We can not stress how important proper stretching is

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