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How To Treat & Prevent Shin Splints

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 17 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Calf Muscle Tendon Arch Impact Pronation

One of the rules that those relatively new to running are told time and again is: listen to your body. Aches and pains can be all part of getting back on the road; however they can also be an indication of a condition that needs attention.

Of the range of problems that can afflict the lower body, runner’s knee is probably the most discussed, which is why the term has come in to such common usage. But lagging not too far behind in the dictionary of woe is shin splints.

There may be a number of reasons why pain in this area is occurring, such as tendonitis or a stress fracture. As your running career develops, you will begin to become more familiar with what various warning signs mean, and whether they warrant a visit to the physio or simply an ice pack. But it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice in order to pin-point the problem and plan, if necessary, an effective rehabilitation programme.

Arch of the Foot

In general, references to shin splints involve the muscle close to the bone on the inner shin. Waggle your foot up and down and you’ll notice the pull on this muscle. What occurs when you are on the move is that the muscle pulls the arch of the foot up while the tendon attached to it is called into action as the arch of the foot collapses in the wake of each stride to absorb the impact. If this action is compromised due to excessive pronation, or inward turning of the foot, problems will begin to develop, signalled, not surprisingly, by pain.

So what’s your course of action? Firstly, find out from a professional what the exact problem is. Once that has been ascertained, set about ensuring it doesn’t reoccur. If you have acted before the problem has become a serious one, then curing the shin splints should only be a matter of a few days’ rest, followed by easing yourself back into training.

Softer, Grassy Terrain

But before you step out again, address both your regular route and your footwear: ease the impact on your lower body by altering your course so that the majority of it is over softer, grassy terrain rather than concrete or Tarmac. In addition, contact a specialist running shop that offers a fitting service that will include analysis of how your foot strikes the floor. If over-pronation is the problem, they are likely to recommend purchasing a new shoe with a firm mid-sole that also incorporates some arch support. That means more expense, but think of it as investing in the most important piece of equipment that you possess – your body.

If you act positively to address the causes of shin splints, there is no reason why you won’t emerge a wiser, more confident runner from the experience. Just be sure not to become complacent, switch off and miss those tell-tales signals of an approaching physical problem; otherwise you may end up back on the physio’s table and facing more weeks on the sidelines.

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