The Cause and Prevention of Shin Splints
How do you treat a case of Shin Splints? Asking this question a few years back on the Dead Runner list, I received a good amount of advice. This page is a compilation of these answers. It discusses various remedies and preventive actions. See below. I still make use of some of these tips. I must admit, though, it does not relieve me of this problem, but it seemed to help.
The biggest tip I can give is to take off until the pain is gone. I repeat, The biggest tip I can give is to take off until the pain is gone. I hate to do this myself, but it is the best bet. Too many people try to run through shin splints and end up prolonging and worsening the problem. So far, it has always disappeared within a couple of weeks depending on the severity. While not running, I suggest you do the exercises and other tips described below. And the start back *conservatively*! Unfortunately, I have not found a wonder cure for it and it basically limits my running to less mileage per week than I would like to, but that's life!
The shin splints could be caused by the pounding or it could be over-pronation. Anyway, make sure that you have not put too many miles on your current pair. Shin splints can come when the shoe gets worn out. How many miles is the life span of a shoe? I don't know and, literally, YMMV. But 500 miles seems to be an often quoted number. Some change more often, some use them longer. This changing of shoes applies to other types of sport shoes (basketball, tennis, etc.).
Following is the synopsis of the shin splints advice I gathered. I hope this helps. Sometimes how you are training is the root cause of what is going on with your legs. For more advice on training properly and solving issues, check out The Lore of Running, The Runner's Repair Manual for some excellent information. Good luck!
The problem I have is (self-diagnosed) posterior tibial tendonitis. It is a pain on the inside of the shinbone. Much of the advice below also relates to anterior shin splints (pain on the very front of the shin).
1. The muscle/tendon that becomes inflamed runs alongside the shinbone and attaches at various places on the bottom of the foot. If you have a weak arch in your foot it will put more stress on the tendon than it can handle. Remedy: arch support or orthotics.
2. When the heel hits the ground it generally does this on the outside. In some cases the motion following (rolling inward, the infamous pronation) stresses the tendon too much. Either have the heels of your shoes lowered on the outside or put a heel lift in the shoe to lift the inside of the heel.
4. Stretch your calves, particularly before and after the runs.
5. Strengthen the shin muscles that are not strengthened by running, thus eliminating an imbalance of lower leg muscles. The exercises recommended were toe crunches and lifting the front part of the foot against some resistance (furniture, bicycle inner tube, book bag lifts, pressing one foot against the other, ...).
6. Massage the bottom of your foot. Sore spots are likely to appear were the tendon is attached to the foot.
7. Ice your shins after the run. Also, ice the bottom of the feet where the tendon attaches to the foot.
8. Heat the shins before the run. This gets the blood flowing to the shins.
There was one more advice that was based on the fact that a nerve in the spine was pinched causing the pain in the lower leg. This was fixed by a PT by 're-arranging' the spine. I'm sure a pinched nerve can cause pain in the legs but I don't know if it could cause an inflammation of the tendon in question? Maybe the problem was not a pinched nerve after all but a poorly aligned spine that caused the legs to have different length.
Not getting shin splints is the best way to ease the pain they cause. Attention to the cause and contributing factors of shin splints can pro-actively assist in prevention.
Try to limit running on concrete or hard surfaces. The extra pounding is a main cause of shin pain. Soft dirt trails and grass are the best surfaces, but running on a variety of surfaces allows your legs to adjust to many different textures and will strengthen the supporting muscles.
Beginning a running program and/or increasing mileage too quickly places excessive stress on leg muscles that have are not ready for the extra pounding. Ease you way into your program. Join a running club and look for the guidance they can provide. Excellent advise on correctly training for running can be found among the Recommended Running Books, which have been selected for the quality of the content. Proper training can PREVENT many injuries.
Spend the extra few dollars it takes to replace shoes that are worn, or that don't fit properly. Also, if you are running, you running shoes rather than shoes designed for some other activity. Running shoes make rotten basketball and tennis shoes, and likewise, tennis and basketball shoes are not made for the stresses of running.
Extra body weight translates into extra stress on your foot and leg muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. Stronger foot and leg muscles will handle extra body weight more effectively.
Muscle imbalances can put you well on your way to a case of shin splints before you even start running. Tired or inflexible calf muscles place stress on tendons at their point of attachment. Any biomechanical misalignment from your toes to your lower back could cause strain on your legs. Work to strengthen all your lower leg muscles, including the ones that don't look good at the beach!
Dehydration is the starting point of many injuries. The human body is about 75% water and acts as a key lubricant that permits bones, muscles, and connective tissues slide against each other. If you are dehydrated, your muscles, tendons and ligaments will be too. Proper hydration requires 6-8 glasses of water per day. Coffee, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverage do not count toward you water count, so just make a point to drink more water.