It’s what every athlete worries about: getting injured in the run up to a big event.
I’m not sure if taking part in the Brighton Marathon is at risk, but I know the next couple of weeks of training are in jeopardy. For the last few weeks I’ve been developing a pain in my lower right leg. Having experienced shin splints in the past I’ve been conscious that I need to take care, so using my “special shoes” I’ve adapted my training plan to avoid running on consecutive days. But as the intensity and volume of training has built up, the old curse has caught up with me again.
During a rare visit to my GP today (nagged relentlessly by Mrs G to make an appointment on account of my pronounced limp since Sundays 20 miler) I was told to rest, ice and elevate the leg whilst following a course of anti-inflammatory tablets. The doctor told me that my leg might not get better in time for the marathon but experience tells me that these things usually pass within 10 days or so. But being ready for 6 April is now a big concern so I am following instructions to the letter as you can see in the picture!
What are Shin Splints?
Common! That’s what they are! Our medical mates would prefer to call the most common form of the condition by it’s
Sunday name of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). The picture from the Pro-Tec Athletics gives you a good view of what we are talking about.
Shin splints is the term used for any pain at the front of your lower leg between the knee and ankle. They are really a symptom of any type of lower leg malfunction! And there is no single cause for the pain. The article given to me by my GP is held on patient.co.uk and I’ve provided the link here. The pain can vary too: shins may become sensitive to touch or grow from an occasional dull ache through to a constant pain,
Due to the variety of issues that shin splints can be symptomatic of, the causes are wide and varied. From my perspective, my self diagnosis is linked to under-pronation in my foot-fall due to having high arches (or stiletto feet as the’ve been called in the past). For the last few weeks the pain has dissipated a minute or so in to a training run but returned the day after. Other runners experience shin splints when they run further or faster, run on hard surfaces or when they wear they wrong types of shoes (or the right type of shoes that have worn out).
There are other possible causes of shin pain but stress fractures or muscle hernias are less common.
How should shin splints be treated?
I suppose that first of all you want the pain to stop. So that means stopping training for a while until the pain goes. You can speed up getting rid of the pain by following the normal guidance of using ice, elevation and painkillers. But they won’t fully go (and they’ll probably get worse) if you don’t rest, rest, rest!
If the pain doesn’t go within a few days then it might be worth a trip to the doctor as there are other things that is could be which could need more attention.
From what I’ve read, you can still cross train or cycle during the rest period (great news which means I’ll be out on my bike at the weekend!)
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you’ll shake them off never to return! Some tips that I’ve read about (but remember I’m sitting here with frozen peas on my leg) are:
- Get proper running shoes fitted – go to a place with a gait machine, talk to experts, don’t scrimp! Somewhere like my favourite shop The Running Fox in Loughborough is great
- Change your shoes regularly make your own judgement but I think I’ve left it too long and the cushioning has gone which has caused this bout of pain
- Train sensibly – too much too soon is only going to lead to problems
- If the right trainers don’t help, visit a podiatrist to consider some insoles (or orthotics) for your trainers
- Give up running, buy a bike and get cycling!!
References and Useful Links
Pro-Tech Athletics: http://www.pro-tecathletics.com/59055/Shin-Splints.html