What are shin splints?
Experiencing a sharp pain beneath the shin? You may very well be suffering from shin splints. The good news, you are not alone. The term shin splints is used rather liberally to describe any pain felt between the knee and the ankle in and around the shin area. Shin splints however are not an acute injury. This type of injury is caused by the accumulation of stress placed on the shin region over time. This cumulative stress occurs most generally in people who engage in athletic activities on a routine basis, specifically running. This continual stress on the muscles, bones and joints in the legs inhibits the body’s ability to naturally repair the damage. So in short, what are shin splints? Shin splints are the general term that refers directly to pain in the shin region caused by continual stress on the area. So what causes them?
What Are Shin Splints Caused By? – Medical professionals have struggled to specifically determine the cause of shin splint pain. It is generally accepted that they result from the inflammation of the posterior peroneal tendon and its surrounding tissues in the shin region. Again, shin splints are an injury caused by stress accumulation rather than a from a unique act of trauma.
What Are Shin Splints – Who is prone to shin splints? As previously mentioned, those who engage in frequent athletic activity can be prone to shin splints. Those who play sports that require sudden starts and stops are in a high risk category for shin splints. Sports such as soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball and football can all lead to the development of shin splints in their participants. If you have experienced pain below the knee in the shin area, you have likely been affected by shin splints.
What Are Shin Splints – What Causes Shin Splints?
The fact is, if you are a runner, or a participant in a sport that requires frequent starts and stops, you will experience shin splints. Shin splints are an overuse injury that result from the repetitious pounding caused by running. Understanding the overarching causes of shin splints is key to preventing them in the future.
Recovery Time: A major recurring theme that is almost always tied to overuse injuries is recovery time. Shin splints are no different. Now you should know that each person’s body is different, and therefore optimal recovery time must be judged against one’s age, physical well being and numerous other factors. Runners generally have an idea of how long it takes for their muscles to recover from a run. Same goes for athletes. Providing your body with adequate recovery time is imperative in keeping shin splints at bay.
Excessive Training: Outsizing your training is another major theme that correlates positively with shin splints in runners/athletes. An example of outsized training: If a runner’s body is accustomed to a weekly average of 20 miles and is suddenly subjected to a spike of let’s say 50 miles, that runner has outsized their training regimen. If not coupled with increased recovery time, a runner in this scenario would leave herself open to the possibility of an overuse injury like shin splints.
Fits & Starts: Athletes who participate in sports such as basketball, football, tennis, any sport that requires hard starts and stops is also vulnerable to the effects of overuse injuries. Shin splints of course are highly correlated with these athletes. Below you will read about the mechanics of the runner. The mechanics of a football player are similar, but with much less repetition, yet more concentrated and severe shocks. These concentrated and sever start and stop shocks on the shin region help to produce the painful sensation that most refer to as shin splints.
The Mechanics: If you were to watch a slow motion video of a runner, you would notice that the motion displays first a foot strike, followed by the loading phase, and finally the pushing off/release phase. Each full cycle phase produces a shock wave that moves directly up the leg. Physics tells us that this energy has to be absorbed. Where you ask? The musculoskeletal system is the lucky recipient. The more resistant the running surface, the greater the shock.
Running Downhill: On your running route, do you find yourself running downhill more often than not? If so, you may be assisting the onset of shin splints. When running downhill your foot hits the ground in a flexed position, meaning, your toes are pointing downward away from the shin. This in turn puts excess pressure on the muscles surrounding the shin rather than distributing the pressure over the foot. Do your best to steer clear of prolonged downhill running! You’ll thank yourself. And so will your shins!
Old Tired Shoes: If you’re like me, you find a pair of running sneakers that you love and you stick with them. They’re broken in, comfortable, no blisters. Why change? Well, it’s that exact thought process that may be leading to the throbbing pain in and around your shin that we lovingly know as shin splints. The running community consensus is that the ASICS GEL models tend to be the most highly cushioned shoe for those with shin splints. I would give them a shot if you haven’t yet.