Shin splints can stop you in your tracks in your training program. Technically known as tibial stress syndrome, shin splits cause dull, aching pain on the front side of your shins. Shin splints are inflammation of the periostium of the tibia (sheath surrounding the bone). There can be a number of reasons why shin splits are caused and I will go over a few:
1. Overuse and bad programming. This is probably the number one reason people have shin splints. Anything with “stress” in the diagnosis means you over did an activity. Your body was not prepared to handle the stress of the activity so inflammation happened. If your body is not prepared to run (usually the sport where shin splits occur), tibial stress syndrome will arise quickly. You must program your training wisely. Bad programming will definitely lead to shin splints because your body could not handle the high volume too quickly thus leading to overuse and injury.
2. Poor ankle mobility. When running your ankles need adequate range of motion. You need to be able to dorsi-flex freely (bring your foot up towards your shin). Poor ankle mobility will stress the shins each time you strike the ground during running. A simple drill for increased ankle mobility is to elevate your foot on a platform and drive your knee over your toes.
3. Overweight. When you run you put 3-4 times your bodyweight of pressure every time you strike the ground. If you weigh 180 pounds that is 540 pounds of shock each foot strike. Do the math and that is a lot of stress to your joints. If your body can’t handle the “stress”, stress happens. If you have extra weight on your frame and start running too much too soon, shin splints will happen.
4. Poor flexibility and functional movement. “Don’t run to get fit, be fit to run” is a quote by Diane Lee, a physical therapist in Canada. You must build your running mileage around a proper recovery and strength program. If you get strong, stable and flexible, you will run more efficiently and reduce your chance of shin splints or any other overuse injuries.
If you have shin splits, here are some remedies you can implement to relieve the pain:
- Drop the activity that caused shin splints until your pain subsides
- Ice massage – 5 minutes every hour (freeze a water bottle, cut the bottom 4 inches off of plastic to expose ice and massage the affected area)
- Soft tissue work with a massage stick, baseball or foam roll on your feet, calves and peronnials (side of the lower leg)
- Daily stretching
- Ankle mobility drills
- Feet and ankle strengthening – towel curl ups with your toes, calf raises, heel walks and dynamic warm-up barefoot
- Warm-up every single training session