If you are or have ever been a runner, you’ve probably experienced shin splints. The pain shooting down your shins can be attributed to a number of factors, and everyone seems to have an idea about how to fix them. But what is proper shin splints treatment?
Traveling everywhere via Segway?
We hear a lot of conflicting reports about shin splints, so we wanted to set the record straight.
What Are Shin Splints, Anyway?
If you’ve experienced shin splints, you know that feeling. Searing pain shooting down your shins, usually (but not always,) along the inside part of the shin.
Shin Splints are usually caused by overuse.
The pain that’s associated with shin splints is a result of inflammation. Inflammation causes the muscles of the shin to swell and pull away from the shin bone, causing microtears in the tissues that bind them together.
Don’t worry, that sounds scarier than it is. Shin splints shouldn’t be causing you any permanent damage. (Unless you make it worse by continuing to push through the pain.) But they sure do hurt, and they can keep you from doing the things you love.
Why Do We Get Shin Splints?
Since shin splints are a direct result of inflammation, it leads us to take a look at what tends to cause that inflammation.
The major culprit is just plain overuse. If you put too much strain on a muscle that isn’t quite strong enough to handle it, it’s going to cause some swelling and inflammation.
For example, if you’re a cross country runner and you take the winter off, and then jump straight into a high intensity or long distance run in the spring without building your endurance back up, you may experience the pain of shin splints.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to running. If you have a desk job and switch careers to something that requires you to be mobile for most of the day, you could potentially overuse those muscles. Even walking around Disney World for 4-5 hours could put you in the path of discomfort if you aren’t used to that level of activity.
Lack Of Support
Another reason for shin splints pain can be lack of supportive footwear, (like a good running or walking shoe.)
The muscles that become inflamed causing the pain of shin splints can be traced to a band that moves from the front of the foot to the arch of the foot up the shin to the knee. (The IT Band.)
If you lack supportive footwear, your foot type may lead you to overpronate in your gait. (This is where your foot rolls inward as you stride.) Overpronation can put excess force on the IT Band and pull muscles away from the shinbone, putting too much pressure on the tissues surrounding the bone. And voila: shin splints pain.
How To Get Rid Of Shin Splints:
First things first: reign it back. As a rule, if you experience pain, it means that there’s something wrong. Don’t push through it- take some time off and let the inflammation go down before you continue with any sort of strenuous activity.
Now, here’s the good news if you’re experiencing shin splints: if your shin splints are occurring based on the overuse of the muscles, they should go away as you build up your muscles’ endurance.
Stretching can be a key part of this process: you don’t want your muscles so tight they pull in unhealthy ways. Research good exercises and stretches to help build endurance and prevent shin splints.
If you are careful and slowly build up the strength of your shin muscles by properly stretching and not overexerting yourself, you shouldn’t experience any long-term ill effects.
BUT HERE’S A BIG ‘BUT’: If you continually overuse your muscles and overexert your IT band, even when experiencing shin splints pain, you can end up causing stress fractures in your tibia that CAN be long lasting. So be careful, and don’t ignore the warning signs!
Correcting Lack Of Support
If your shin splints are being caused from lack of support, you need to revisit your footwear.
In our post on the Anatomy Of A Shoe, we talk about the factors that make up a supportive shoe. Look to the midsole and the base of the shoe, looking for factors like a wide base and high contours for arch support.
Strenuous activity without the proper support can put all sorts of muscles in jeopardy and leave you at higher risk for fatigue and injuries like shin splints.
In addition to picking the right shoe, you may want to consider a supportive shoe insole for additional support.
Orange Insoles offers a unique, supportive insole that offers a heel cup, metatarsal pad, and contoured medial arch support. These help correct foot issues like overpronation that can exacerbate shin splint pain.