Are you suffering from nagging shin pain that's worse in the morning and after your runs? If so, you may be dealing with shin splints.
Why do runners get shin splints?
Shin splints are generally thought of as an overuse injury. Because running is such a repetitive and high-impact activity, runners are at high risk of developing them.
Shin splints occur when damage is done to the bone and muscle in the shin. The body responds to this damage with inflammation, causing pain that generally runs along the shin bone. It may increase with pressure, and be worse immediately following a run. If a person continues to run on shin splints without treatment, the pain will continue to worsen.
It's particularly important to see a doctor to confirm a shin splints diagnosis because tibial stress fractures have similar symptoms. Stress fractures require more aggressive treatment, including complete cessation of running, whereas shin splints aren't quite as serious.
How can shin splints be treated?
Runners have some options when it comes to treating shin splints. Recovery time will likely vary based on how severe the shin splints are, but some different types of treatment options are rest, stretching, and intramuscular stimulation.
Rest is a given for just about any sports injury. Giving the affected area time to heal is important, so your doctor may suggest you take time off from running. In the meantime, activities such as cycling and swimming will allow you to maintain your cardiovascular endurance without aggravating your injury.
Calf and shin stretches can help relieve some of the pain associated with shin splints. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to find stretches that target the painful area. Establishing a routine of stretching may help prevent shin splints from popping up again in the future.
Intramuscular stimulation relieves tension in tight muscles. It involves rapid insertion of thin needles into the skin. A doctor or physiotherapist feels for areas of muscle that are overly tight-- these muscles tend to resist the needle. When the needle goes in, the muscle generally tenses up and cramps. The needle is then taken out, and, few seconds later, the cramp subsides and the muscle relaxes. Shin splints are just one injury that intramuscular stimulation can be used to treat.
Shin splints can be frustrating and painful, but they generally respond well to treatment. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist at a sports injury clinic to determine which treatment options are best for you.