WHAT ARE SHIN SPLINTS?
Shin splints, the catch-all term for lower leg pain that occurs below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or the inside of the leg (medial shin splints), are the bane of many athletes, runners, tennis players, even dancers. They often plague beginning runners who do not build their mileage gradually enough or seasoned runners who abruptly change their workout regimen, suddenly adding too much mileage, for example, or switching from running on flat surfaces to hills. The nature of shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), most often can be captured in four words: too much, too soon.
HOW DID I GET MEDIAL TIBIAL STRESS SYNDROME?
There can be a number of factors at work, such as overpronation (a frequent cause of medial shin splints), inadequate stretching, worn shoes, or excessive stress placed on one leg or one hip from running on cambered roads or always running in the same direction on a track. Typically, one leg is involved and it is almost always the runner’s dominant one. If you’re right-handed, you’re usually right-footed as well, and that’s the leg that’s going to hurt.
The most common site for shin splints is the medial area (the inside of the shin). Anterior shin splints (toward the outside of the leg) usually result from an imbalance between the calf muscles and the muscles in the front of your leg and often afflict beginners who either have not yet adjusted to the stresses of running or are not stretching enough. The actual pain generator is due to one of the two following reasons:
- Small tears in the muscle that are pulled off the bone
- Inflammation of the periosteum and muscle
Since shin splints have a muscle and tendon component, many of our soft tissue tools (e.g. Graston technique, rapid release and ultrasound) will help resolve this ailment. Foam rolling and using a running stick are great lost cost ways to prevent the formation of trigger points in the muscles that cause shin splints. Keep in mind that ice is the preferred therapy overheat after stretching is performed to cool down the inflamed muscles. If you’re a runner and suffering from shin splints, try experimenting with different running shoes and/or switching to a more midfoot or toe first strike pattern. Heel striking will always be 100% the wrong way to land on an outstretched foot. The natural way to land is with your forefoot and spring off using the Achilles tendon. For more information, try looking up the Pose Method.