Shin splints - Rehab4Runners

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Shin splints

Lets start by saying that suffering from ‘shin splints’ is definitely not as bad as it sounds. Shin splints or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, is when you experience pain in the lower shin. The pain is usually brought on from exercising, luckily it isn’t serious and there are many things you can do to make it better. 


The symptoms of shin splints is pain in the shin bone, this hard can be hard to pin point to one specific area of the shin. There is also tenderness if you press on the inside shin bone, the pain becomes prominent during exercise but you may feel like your shin then eases throughout your run. The pain is not a one off feeling and often your in pain again soon after. Shin splints is also at their most painful when you forcibly try and lift your foot up at the ankle and flex your foot. 

 What is it?

The difficult thing about shin splints is that it isn’t easy to diagnose, just because you have pain in your shin it doesn’t mean that this is what’s wrong. If you have continuous shin pain that isn’t relieved then this could be a stress fracture or even compartment syndrome, if so then you will need to see a health care professional. There are differences between these symptoms. If your shin feels worse in the morning then this is because the tissues have tightened over time, this means it’s more likely to be shin splints. 

How did I do that?

Shin splints is the bane of most athletes, it often affects beginner runner who haven’t built up their millage enough but it can also affect seasoned runners who drastically changed their workout. The most common cause for shin splints is simple, you’ve done too much too soon.

Typically one leg is involves and it’s always your dominant leg (right handed, right legged), you might find that you’ve been running the same way on a track for too long and your leg has been taking more strain. It’s best to always take notice of the different in terrain’s in your run, the cause of most runners injuries are from running on uneven terrain. Stretching can also be a cause, just because your eager to start our run does not mean it’s okay to skip out on stretching. 


First things first, stop running! If you keep on running while having shin splints it’s only going to get worse, give the shin time to heal before you even think about going for a run. 

First off always remember to ‘RICE’ a strain, Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. This will help to cool down the inflammation and help ease the pain, you just avoid running again and any serious form of exercise. Wearing a compression sock would also be beneficial as they’ve been known to help ‘remodel’ the bone. 

It’s recommended as well to have a gait analysis, a podiatrist would be best as they will be able to give you an accurate account of how to keep your feet healthy. They will also be able to point you in the right direction of which running shoes will be most beneficial to you, this could help prevent his strain from returning.

And of course the main treatment. Stretching. That seems to be the answer to the majority of sports related injuries, sadly stretching the shin isn’t exactly straightforward. If you want to see results you’ve got to stretch your muscles 3-5 times a day.

Here’s some recommended stretches for you to try 

  • Stand on a step with the forefoot on the step and the heel hanging off the back.
  • Hold onto a wall or banister and slowly lower the heel down below the level of the step until a stretch is felt in the calf muscles.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Then bend the knee slightly. You should feel the stretch move lower in the calf, around the achilles area.
  • Again, hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat the straight leg, Gastrocnemius stretch and then repeat the bent leg Soleus stretch so each is performed twice.

Getting a sports massage is also highly recommended as this helps to increase blood flow and flexibility which helps to heal the tissues. If the pain continues it’s advisable to go and see a health care professional. 

Running again

Always be careful when you first start running again after having an injury, run to soon and you run the risk of causing permanent damage. Starting to run again can be tricky after having shin splints, often you won’t know if the pain is gone until you start running again. 

The best thing to do is once you have significantly increased the flexibility of your calf muscles by stretching, then start by going for walks to test just how dependable your muscles are now. As always it’s wise not to as soon as you feel better to go run a marathon, once you’ve managed to do a couple of walks without feeling pain, then you can start going on light jogs. Then you can gradually build up your time and if your feel any pain it’s important to immediately stop and apply ice to the leg. If the pain continues and doesn’t seem to be budging at all, then definitely go and see a health care professional. 

Also avoid hills for a while….