02 Oct I have shin splints – does that mean I can’t run anymore?
What are shin splints?
Everyone whos active knows that injuries, bumps, bruises, and pains are all part and parcel with sport. But for some runners the constant ache of shin splints can become a real issue, hindering their race ambitions and sometimes making them leave the sport altogether. Getting seen by a specialist foot and ankle surgery is important in diagnosing and treating them correctly. If you don’t get proper treatment they can easily be misdiagnosed as stress fractures (that are more serious and do require you to stop running/cycling).
Shin splints refer to pain in the front of your legs on your shins that is usually brought about by exercise. Medically it is known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.
Why we get shin splints isn’t always clear. However, we do know there are certain things that make you more likely to get shin splints. These include:
- A sudden increase in the number of miles you are running or a new exercise regime or sport
- Lots of running on hard or uneven surface
- Being overweight significantly increases your risk as it adds strain to your legs
- Having pes planus (that’s medical terminology for flat feet)
How do I know if I have shin splints?
There are a number of telltale signs that point towards shin splints (that are strikingly similar to more serious stress fractures and therefore need to be differentiated by a professional). Symptoms include:
- The pain is on the shin after or during a run. The pain typically comes on soon after you start exercising. This pain might start out dull and achy but as you continue to exercise becomes more and sharper.
- Usually, it’s not just the one shin. Its a stress issue on both legs and therefore it is usually both shins.
- Often felt across the whole of the shin. If you press down it is tender all over the shin and not exquisitely painful over one specific area. If you notice pain over a small area then this points towards a stress fracture.
- The pain will usually go away if you rest long enough
How do I treat shin splints?
Shin splints are usually self-limiting and will go away with enough rest. There are a few tricks you can try at home:
- Rest them by not doing the activity for a few weeks
- If they are painful or swollen use ice to reduce the swelling
- Pain relief can be used such as paracetamol
- Reduce the mileage you are running
- Switch to a low impact sport such as swimming or cycling.
Can I run with shin splints?
The question most often on runners minds is often the same. Can I run with shin splints? The answer is yes and no. Whilst you should try and rest them, often you will be able to reduce the mileage you are running per week to relieve the pain. Mileage increases should be gradual and steady. Failing this, get in contact with a specialist foot and ankle clinic who can mold personalized insoles that fit your feet and that can significantly reduce pain.