If plagued with shin splints, should you still run or jog? The short answer is “no,” but an understanding of the condition will further explain why it’s not a good idea.
Running with Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
Medial tibial stress syndrome – shin splints – is a common injury in runners as well as people whose activities include running. Shin splints are difficult to define because medical professionals have differing views on the condition. Most scientists and doctors do agree on one point. When speaking of shin splints, it is the periosteum – the scientific name for the tissue that surrounds the shinbone – that is affected. When the tissue/periosteum becomes inflamed, the result is painful shins or pain in the lower part of the leg.
Symptoms of Shin Splints
Shin splints are characterized by tenderness and pain on the inner shinbone. The area will be painful to the touch and running exacerbates the discomfort. The achy feeling that first appears with shin splints will develop into sharp pain while running, and walking can also be painful. Running with shin splints is dangerous. Runners can develop a worsening condition, even causing a tibia stress fracture, which compared to the recovery time for shin splints can be much longer, sometimes up to six weeks. To prevent a worsening condition, it’s best not to run if you suspect you have shin splints.
Diagnosing Shin Splints
Diagnosing shin splints might involve imaging. A physical exam by your health care provider is necessary, too. Your doctor will take a medical history prior to conducting a physical exam, then order imaging of the area where you are experiencing pain. An X-ray or other form of imaging will reveal the cause of the discomfort. If the diagnosis confirms shin splints, it will be a good idea to adjust your activities, particularly running, for exercise. It is especially prevalent in runners who are just beginning a running regimen.
Treating Shin Splints
Running, by definition is repetitive, which of course contributes to shin splints. A runner can avoid shin splints by altering the way he or she runs and stretching before and after every run. Think about your gait and alter the step pattern. Wearing the right running shoes can help prevent shin splints. Runners should make sure the shoes they wear support their weight, helps those who overpronate develop a more neutral gait, provides enough padding and arch support, and are adequate for the surface they are running on. Runners who do develop shin splints should cease from running. To avoid shin splints runners may consider avoiding hardball surfaces and opting for trails or grass.
Those who have been diagnosed with shin splints may be required to ice their shins, use anti-inflammatories, avoid weight bearing (your doctor may advise the use of crutches) and should wrap their shins. Water aerobics or swimming are great alternatives to avoid adding excess pressure or weights to the shins.
All lower leg pain can’t be defined as shin splints, which is why medical professionals differ regarding the definition. Active persons might find that their pain is associated with tendonitis, stress fractures, a sprain, or even a ruptured Achilles tendon. Unfortunately, these and other painful leg conditions have been misdiagnosed as shin splints which is why it’s important to confirm your suspicions with a qualifed orthopedist.
Don’t let an injury like shin splints keep you from running or doing any of the activities you love to do. The board-certified, fellowship trained physicians at Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence are experts in sports injuries and will offer the most effective treatment to get you back on the road again. If you have any questions about our orthopedic services, please call our office at (719) 623-1050. To schedule an appointment, you can call us or use our secure online appointment request form.