Shin Splints: 7 Tips That Work Now
Brief summary of the article
- Shin splints is a collective name for all kinds of shin disorders.
- The main cause is overloading of the shins, due to sports activity and other incriminating activities.
- The best way to recover is to rest, keep your leg up, use ice and wear compression socks.
- There are exercises to make shin splints recover and prevent faster.
- The use of compression socks remains remarkably low, while it is the solution for this common condition.
Do you suffer from shin splints?
Then you are certainly not the only one. Sources say that more than 30% of athletes can suffer from shin splints.
That is why we write in this blog post about shin splints and everything that has to do with it. We will discuss what exactly shin splints is, how it can arise, what you can do to speed up the recovery process, which exercises are available and how you prevent it.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints, or shin membrane inflammation, is a condition with many names. In the tennis world, these disorders are known as jumps, while nowadays Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) or tibial posterior syndrome is also spoken of. Tibial membrane inflammation is not really a condition. It is a general term that refers to several injuries at the same time, all of which occur around the tibia.
In most cases it is an inflammation of the place where a muscle in the lower legs is attached to the bone of the tibia. You can see it quite simply: both the tibia and the fibula run in the leg. There is tissue between these two bones to connect them. There is also a leg membrane around these two bones, which is very sensitive. You can feel it when you hit the shin.
At the same time there are muscles in the lower leg that are attached to the tibia and fibula. When you often load the lower legs, such as athletes and especially runners, it can happen that the muscles in the lower legs cannot handle the load. In this case, the force that the muscles can no longer handle will also act on the tibia. This can cause cracks in the tibia, leading to inflammation in the tissue that connects the tibia and fibula. Hence the name "shin membrane inflammation".
The inflammation is often called shin membrane or shin splints. This inflammation is therefore due to overloading the lower leg. Lower leg overload may also be because other parts of your body, such as the calves or ankles, are too weak. As a result, you load the lower legs more and also overload. The recovery of shin splints takes an average of 2 months (!). It is therefore also very undesirable to contract tibia infection.
Shin splints are therefore common among frequent athletes (10 to 35% of athletes suffer from tibial infection), but also among soldiers who start their recruits training (5 to 10%).
Shin splints can be roughly divided into two types. There are many more variants of shin splints, but these two types are the most common. The first type is an inflammation of the posterior tibial muscle. With this form of tibial inflammation, you will most likely suffer from pain coming from the center of the tibia. It can also become red and swell around the tibia. With type number two, the pain is mainly present on the sides of the shins. There is also a possibility that you feel the pain in front of the shins, this is less common, but is still very annoying.
Another form of shin splints is when the shin itself contains cracks, which may cause the shin to overload. This is a shin stress fracture. Here too, pain will develop around and on the tibia.
The greatest risk groups for shin splints are (starting) athletes, who suddenly start to exercise a lot and therefore overload the lower legs. Runners in particular suffer from this, but cyclists, volleyball players, skaters and tennis players also often suffer from jumping jumps. However, soldiers are at the top of the list. Novice recruits often have heavy training sessions and load the lower legs quickly. Especially since their boots give little space to the lower leg to move.
Do I have shin splints?
How can you know if you have shin splints? You usually already feel it yourself, it is a nagging pain in the shins, which can also become a stabbing pain in the event of a load. Often you know how it can happen, since overloading is the cause. Have you just started running, but have you started running a lot? Or have you suddenly started exercising a lot? Then shin splints is a logical consequence.
Symptoms & complaints of shin splints
As already discussed, shin splints can be very painful and keep you from intensive sports and walking. The first pain usually starts as a sharp pain after putting weight on the lower leg. After that, this pain can turn into a nagging pain that remains constant during movement. The more advanced the shin splints are, the sharper the pain will be. Some people describe the pain as being beaten with a stick. At rest, the pain will no longer be felt. The feet may also feel weaker and give a sensation of numbness. There can also be redness around the shins and swelling, although these swellings are not too large. The recovery takes on average more than two months, this is due to the fact that it is a muscle / tendon disorder. These types of conditions often heal slowly. There is also a significant chance that the pain will return if the person does not change their walking schedule, clothing or shoes.
How are shin splints caused?
Shin splints are therefore caused by overload. Only overload is a bit vague.
So how does this overload arise?
There are many factors that play a role in the development of shin splints. The position of your legs, feet or ankles, for example, influence this.
First of all, feet can be the cause. It can be when you:
- Your feet are tilted inward, which may be due to incorrect running technique. This puts the heel at a crooked angle and stretches the calf muscle in the wrong way. This increases the load on the tibia.
- You have flat feet or hollow feet. Flat feet cause the muscles in the lower leg to be stretched extra. The result is that there is more pulling on the periosteum.
The ankles can also cause shin splints. This happens when:
- The ankle is unstable. This requires more of the calves, which can cause overload of this muscle and shin splints.
- Your legs are not the same length. This ensures that one leg has to absorb more force than the other. This can cause shin splints.
Other factors that can cause shin splints include:
- Wanting to do too much too quickly. Like running long distances, without build-up
- Walking on a surface that is too hard, so that the muscles have to absorb more forces
- Wearing the wrong shoes while putting weight on the lower legs. Especially shoes without cushioning or with too little cushioning cause the foot to tilt inwards. In addition, these shoes do not help the muscles to absorb the blows during exercise.
- Mountain walks can also be the cause. This puts extra stress on the lower leg, because you descend a lot and climb up the mountains.
- Being overweight can also contribute to shin splints. This ensures that the muscles have to absorb extra force.
- A shortened calf muscle can put more stress on the attachment of the tibia.
- Too short of a warm up, so that the calf muscle can also process less load.
- Sports that require frequent sudden stops and re-movements, such as tennis.
- Shin splint treatment
- If you suffer from shin splints, it is useful to take action yourself. The injury will not go away on its own. Do you have very mild complaints? Then you can try to exercise very carefully, if you really have to. Then take the following actions:
- Buy proper shoes when exercising. Especially the shoes with a lot of cushioning.
- Do sports on a soft surface, so that there is more load on the lower legs.
- Train slowly. Don't try to set a new PR
- Use ice regularly to cool the shins.
It is better to stop exercising completely for a while. Rest is the best advice and you will experience that yourself, if you look at how the complaints develop.
So I don't have to do anything at all?
Of course you can take a few actions while resting that will ensure that your recovery is speedy. A well-known mnemonic is RADISH. This stands for rest, keep high, keep pressure on and ice.
We've already talked about rest. Elevated means raising the leg so that the blood can escape more easily. Pressure is a critical part of the recovery process. The most effective way to keep pressure on the shins is to use compression socks.
These are tight-fitting socks, up to the knee. Compression socks ensure that the blood in the feet and lower legs is better drained, which is conducive to the recovery of shin splints and other injuries in the legs.
"I bought the stockings to build up running after a shin splint. The stockings provide support and stability. I also feel that they prevent muscle pain." - Frederika
The last part of RADISH is using ice. Cool the shins, so that the pain sensation also becomes less strong. Do this for a few minutes, three times a day. In this way, the inflammation decreases faster.
Massage is also a good way to ensure a speedy recovery.
In order not to let the progress you have made sink in, you can choose to go swimming or cycling to maintain your stamina.
Does the pain not go away and is there no progress in the recovery process? Then visit a doctor or physiotherapist. This will do additional research. In exceptional cases, shock wave therapy will be recommended, although this is rare.
Shin Splints Exercises
There are many exercises to remedy and prevent shin splints.
We often talk about stretching exercises and strength exercises, in order to build up more tolerance for the load in the lower legs.
The exercises against shin splints are:
1. Sample Steps
In this exercise, you put a band around your thighs and spread your feet until they are the same width as your shoulders. You are basically going to walk in a square. You tighten the band around the thighs. First you put the left foot forward, then the right. Then you step to the left, left again and then right. Then do the same backwards and then to the right, until you are back in your original position. Below is a video of a variant, in which the band is stretched around the ankles and is only moved from left to right.
How does this help against shin splints?
Monster steps ensure stronger muscles in the legs, so that you can better deal with the load on the lower legs in the future. This way you will suffer less quickly from shin splints.
2. Toe grabbing
You stand on a towel under your right foot. Place your feet so that they are as wide as your hips. Then curl the toes of the right foot and try to pull the front part of the towel towards you. Then straighten the toes and do it 10 to 15 times per foot.
3. Ankle cradles
In this exercise, place your hands on your hips and lean on your left leg. Lift the right leg up as you straighten it, to about 15 centimeters from the ground. Then pull the toes from the right foot to the shins, after which you extend the ankles as far as your side. Do this 10 to 15 times with each foot.
Place your hands on your hips and put your weight on your left leg. Lift your right leg straight up until the foot is about 20 cm above the ground. Pull the toes of your right foot toward the shins first, then straighten the ankle as far as you can. Complete 10 to 15 reps, first with one ankle, then with the other.
4. Calf Muscle Exercises.
Stand on a staircase or other elevation. Place only your front foot on the step. Lean your weight on one leg. Lower the heel of the foot in question and raise it again. This training ensures strong calves, which ensures that jumping shins are less likely to occur. Do you need even more calf exercises? Then click here.
5. Walking on your heels and forefoot
Occasionally try to walk only on the forefoot and sometimes only on the heels. This can strengthen the shins.
6. Ankle Exercises
Lift one leg and rotate the foot. Alternate which direction you turn.
Building up running after shin splints
Suppose you have shin splints or you have had it. There is a good chance that this has happened during running, since shin splints are the most common in this sport. What can you do to start building running again sensibly, without shin splints coming back?
Start walking and see if it hurts. Do you still have a lot of pain? Then take more rest. Wearing STOX Recovery Socks are also a good way to get through the first workouts without too much pain.
Can you walk painlessly? Then try to take it very easy for the first running training. You need to build this up after having shin splints. This means jogging at a leisurely pace and resting for a minute or two in between. You can possibly do exercises during the rest periods. Try to cool the shins with ice after training.
Are the first workouts without pain? Then you can make the running minutes a little longer, still means. Also try to still exercise and cool the shins after training.
You can increase the load slightly over the course of the weeks. You can run for 5 to 10 minutes in a row and then build up to 15, 20 and 30 minutes. The pace should still be slow, so that the build-up after shin splints is even.
Try to build this up until you can perform a test run again with a good warm-up. This is your usual round. Is this going well? Then you can continue a running schedule again. Don't forget to wear the STOX Running Socks while running and the STOX Recovery Socks after running, so that you can prevent shin splints more easily.