Shin splints- What's that pain in my shins?
Shin splints are a right pain in the... leg for runners! You may have experienced it, the ache on the inside of the shin (tibia), the 'pumped' feeling when you run or maybe even the sharp pins and needles sensation that runs through your foot and leg. Three very different feelings right there, so how does that work? Well shin splints is not a specific injury as such, it is the generalised term for tibial related pain whilst running, so let's see what differentiates between the three of these sensations and most importantly, how to get rid of it.
Diagnosis The first thing to do when experiencing shin related pain is to get it checked out and get an accurate diagnosis to ensure you're not causing long-term damage or putting yourself at unnecessary risk. You can seek help from a healthcare professional. I'm biased here, but a good sports therapist can help diagnose what is going on and point you in the right direction for the best recovery.
Medial tibial stress syndrome Posterior, medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) may feel like an aching sensation on the inside of your tibia when you run and even during rest. It may feel aggravated when touching the painful area.
Tibial stress fracture
A stress fracture can occur when MTSS is ignored and repetitive overloading of the tibia occurs through running (often due to poor landing mechanics). Most tibial stress fractures occur at the front of your bone and are often very sensitive to the touch. The reason to stop running here is that your tibia is the loading aspect of your lower leg (fibula is non-weight bearing) and is shaped like a bow (The front of the tibia is the front of the bow) and is therefore a weak link to place stress on when damaged. Diagnosis can be made via x-ray, indications of a stress fracture can be made with thermal ultrasound and tuning forks (by a qualified professional).
Chronic exertional compartment syndrome With chronic exertional compartment syndrome, you will feel a tight and 'pumped' feeling in the muscles on the outside front of your tibia (most commonly, but not exclusive to), it will be a nuisance when you run and your lower legs may feel weak. Pointing your toes towards you may feel difficult and pointing your toes away may feel like a stretch but often within 10 minutes of rest after running you will feel normal again. Check out the next article where I explain the main causes of shin splints and how to treat the condition.