Maybe you’ve just starting training, you’ve been to a few classes and decided to start running to up your cardio. Maybe you’re a fighter and you’ve ramped up your running to get ready for a fight. Either way, you’ve been running for a while and you get this pain shooting down the front of your lower leg, and it turns your run from what could have been a personal best into a painful hobble.
Welcome to the world of shin splints.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints, otherwise known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is the most commonly reported injury affecting athletes involved in any form of running activity including fight athletes working on their cardio. It normally starts as a dull aching pain in the bottom two thirds of your shin, normally affecting both legs, and if you continue to exercise it can become extremely painful and you may be forced to stop running all together.
What causes the injury?
MTSS is caused by frequent and intense exercise that involves repeated impact when your body isn’t used to it. So if you’ve suddenly upped your mileage or starting running you’re at a risk of developing shin splints. There are also several other factors that would increase your likelihood of developing shin splints, which include:
- Running on hard surfaces or hills
- Wearing badly fitted or old worn down shoes
- Having flat feet (this puts added stress on your lower legs)
- Having weak ankles
- Having tight calve muscles (including your Achilles’ tendon)
- Being a heavyweight (the higher your body weight the more stress on your joints when you run)
Can I train through it or do I need to rest?
The most important thing with shin splints is not to run through the pain. If you start getting MTSS you need to stop running because it’s only going to make the problem worse. It’ll differ between people, but if training is making your shin splints worse then unfortunately you’re going to need to ease of that as well, or risk being out of action for even longer. The good news is you should be ready to start training properly again after a two week rest, and during those two weeks you can carry on with low impact training, like swimming, cycling or yoga.
What treatments are there?
The first step is the standard RICE technique; Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. As mentioned before, try to avoid impact training for two weeks, and taking over the counter pain killers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can help. A stretching program for your calves and the front of your legs can also help to ease of the symptoms. After two weeks you can start reintroducing light running for short distances, and over the next 4-6 weeks you can build slowly back up to your pre-injury level of running.
How do I prevent the injury reoccurring?
Make sure you have the right running shoes, ones that support your feet correctly if you’re flat footed and that aren’t worn down. If you are increasing your running then do so slowly over a period of weeks rather than rapidly increasing your mileage between two runs.
Do I need to see my doctor?
If the pain hasn’t gone away after a few weeks, or there is swelling, warmth and redness on the shin you should consult a doctor, particularly if you’re only getting pain in one leg, as this could be a sign of something more serious, such as a stress fracture.
Please note that the team at Fight Quality have researched the causes and treatments of this injury, but the advice is not given by a qualified healthcare professional. If you are ever in doubt about the seriousness of an injury you should consult with a doctor or physiotherapist as they can do a full assessment of you as an individual and refer you for further diagnostics if needed.