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The Curse of Returning to Running.... Shin Splints!

This is for anyone who took the winter or some time off and is now returning to running or really any impact sport on the lower limbs. If this sounds like you then you might be setting yourself up to getting shin splits. Shin splits are characteristically described as pain down the "shin" that is brought on through exercise. It is usually described as a "knife" like pain along a course of the shin bone. There are two common forms of shin splints - Anterior and Posterior.

Contributing factors include but are not limited to varus hindfoot, excessive forefoot pronation, genu valgum, excessive femoral anteversion, & external tibial torsion. In clinic the most common cause seen by myself is excessive or unbalanced pronation of the foot.

So if I have shine splints what can I do?

The good news is that shin splits often do heal on their own. But this means stopping the mechanisms that is causing them which means REST! Shin splints have different healing rates depending on the extent of the injury and may with rest take up to 12 weeks to completely heal.

Other options recommended are:

  • Rest your body. It needs time to heal.

  • Kinesiotaping the affected regions (see videos)

  • Ice your shin to ease pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain is gone.

  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, will help with pain and swelling. These drugs can have side effects, though, like a greater chance of bleeding and ulcers. They should be used only occasionally unless your doctor says otherwise.

  • Arch supports for your shoes. These orthotics -- which can be custom-made or bought off the shelf -- may help with flat feet.

  • Range-of-motion exercises, if your doctor recommends them.

  • Neoprene sleeve to support and warm your leg.

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your shins.

  • Rare cases need surgery, such as if you have a severe stress fracture that caused your shin splints.

The best option for shin splints is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. In order to this always wear proper fitted shoes, start exercise regimes slowly, run on softer surfaces and consider an orthotic made by a podiatrist. One of the best options is have a functional assessment of your running and lower limbs done by a professional.

Written by:

Dr. Michael Korczynski


Sources: (Anterior / Lateral Shin Splints) (Posterior Shin Splints)

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