Shin splints are much more than shin soreness. Shin soreness happens through overuse of your shins during training. Soreness can be treated with the R.I.C.E.R. principle (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION, REFERRAL FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE). Shin splints refer to a medical condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).
Problems with your tibia (shin bone), fibula and the many muscles that attach to them cause shin splints. There are two main causes of shin splints:
1. Overloading - Exercising on hard or uneven surfaces bring on shin splints. Other common causes of shin splints are exercising with cheap shoes, exercising after a long layoff, a sudden increase in exercise intensity/duration and excessive uphill or downhill running.
2. Biomechanical Problems - The most common biomechanical problem is running with flat feet which lead to over-pronation (foot and ankle roll excessively inward). Poor running mechanics can also lead to shin splints. And, finally tight lower leg muscles contribute to shin splints.
Prevention of shin splints includes the following:
1. Don't over-train your body! Research shows that the lowest number of running injuries occur when you run three days a week. Each added day increases your chance of injury. Also, don't run too many miles in a week. Those who run 20 miles or less a week experience the lowest number of injuries.
2. You need rest between exercise days and walk breaks during long runs.
3. Quality footwear is a must! You may need the recommendation of a podiatrist and/or expert footwear salesman.
4. Proper warm-up. Dynamic stretching (using your muscles to warm-up your muscles) has been shown to prepare your body best for strenuous activity. A sample dynamic warm-up could be a 5-10 minute jog, prisoner squats, lunges, etc. Static stretches would be done after your workout.
5. Proper running mechanics will help prevent shin splints.
Treatment of shin splints include:
1. R.I.C.E.R. application during the first 24-72 hours of injury.
2. After 72 hours of ice treatment, use heat and deep tissue massage. You can also massage the shin area before and after exercise activity.