Shin Splints is a painful condition located below the knee to either the anterior shin (front outside part of the leg) or the medial shin (inside of the leg). They commonly occur in athletes who try to do too much too soon. That is to say, they do not increase their mileage gradually enough over a longer time period. Often seasonal runners abruptly change their workout regimen, heavily loading too many miles or changing from training on flat surfaces to hills.
This does however need to be diagnosed by a professional as it can sometimes be confused for other more serious conditions. Compartment syndrome, which includes leg pain, unusual nerve sensations, and eventually muscle weakness. Pain in the lower leg could also point to a stress fracture, an incomplete crack in the bone, and this can require a bone scan.
Whilst there is no common consensus among sports scientists as to what exactly shin splints is, it is thought that a number of factors do contribute. Such as overpronation, inadequate stretching, poor quality or worn footwear, as well as excessive stress placed on one leg from running on cambered roads and always running in the same direction on a track. Very often it is the runner’s dominant leg that is always effected.
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 afflicts beginners who either have not yet adjusted to the stresses of running or are not stretching enough.
Experts are agreed that when shin splints strikes it is wise to stop running altogether or to radically reduce your mileage until the symptoms pass. After runs apply the RICE technique: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. You could also try wearing compression socks or use either tape or an Ace bandage to wrap the leg until the pain goes away. This can take between three to six weeks.
It is always worth checking that you are running in the correct footwear and for overpronators it may be worth getting advice about orthotics. A good tip is having two pairs of running shoes and alternating between them. This will help to vary the stresses on your feet and legs.
You should also consider cross training for a while to allow the shins time to heel. This can involve swimming or running in the pool or bike riding. When you do decide to return to running, increase the mileage slowly at a rate no more than 10 percent a week. You should also avoid any hill training until you are confident the pain has passed, and give some thought about any cambered roads or tracks you may run on. Try running in the other direction, but more importantly, make should you are stretching you lower legs and ankles effectively and often.