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Shin splints: Fact, fiction and recovery

By on Jul 20, 2013
Image of runner suffering from shin splints

Shin splints are the curse of many runners. Those new to the sport – and women in particular – are especially vulnerable. But it can be something of a minefield to sort through the information, sometimes conflicting, about the condition.

A welcome addition to the available guidance in this area is an article by SportsInjuryClinic.net that we came across. It tries to sort out the fact from the fiction, helping runners’ understanding of the condition and ways in which you can kickstart your recovery.

Recovery from shin splints – the lowdown

The articles starts out by highlighting that the term ‘shin splints’ is really quite an outdated phrase. What is typically perceived to be shin splints is more accurately described as MTSS – Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). It’s characterised by pain on the inside border of the Tibia, with the pain more acute towards the beginning of exercise but often becoming less marked as the run continues.

The key points to take away about the condition and its treatment are highlighted below; the full article is worth checking out.

  1. This is an incredibly common injury. MTSS is estimated to account for around 1 in 7 running injuries, with only plantar fasciitis occurring more frequently.
  2. MTSS is far more commonly experienced by female runners than male runners – some 10 times as common, according to some estimates.
  3. Treatment programmes should centre around strengthening the tibial cortex. In practice, that requires an initial period of rest, followed by a graded running programme that gradually overloads and strengthens the bone.
  4. A reduction in bone stress is also key. That has significant implications for running form. Overpronation may need to be addressed, for example through orthotics and footwear – and in some cases through tackling weight problems.
  5. The final step is to try to reduce what is termed the ‘vertical loading rate’. While some would argue in favour of barefoot running as the answer here, the article highlights two other steps.
  6. Increased fitness levels, assisted through cross-training, can reduce fatigue levels. That’s important as fatigue is associated with less efficient and poorer running form, which can result in increased bone stress.
  7. Finally, steps to improve running form can also result in a greater efficiency and hence lower energy costs and fatigue, again supporting your recovery.

…Some will argue for a change in technique to favour forefoot running and others would go as far as recommending barefoot running…


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