Question:

Any hints on how to get rid of shin splints?  I feel sure this is what the soreness is, just to the side of my shin bone, starts to be uncomfortable after as little as 5 minutes but stops soon after I stop running.  Have rested it, tapped my toes a lot (a tip given by a personal  trainer) but it is still giving me jip!

Caroline

Wiltshire

Answer:

Dear Caroline,

Shin splints is a frequently used term for any pain at the front of the lower leg, however, true shin splints are stress fractures (tiny breaks) of the tibia and this is only conclusively diagnosed by MRI scan. There are several other conditions that can cause pain in this area.

Pain at the outer side of the shin is more suggestive of overuse of the tibialis anterior muscle, or one of the other muscles in the front of the calf.

This usually occurs as a result of poor running style. The way in which foot movement is initiated i.e. curling the toes up first or lifting at the ankle will dictate which muscles are being used. In conjunction with this, the upper body position over the foot will also have an effect on how the shock of landing is absorbed through the lower leg. In the ideal situation when running, your weight should be forwards over your feet. This is efficient as the body has a collection of tissues – muscles and tendons –which act as springs to propel you forwards. You can only hold this position if you have good control of the correct muscles.

People who suffer with this type of pain tend to have poor control of the gluteal (buttock)muscles and will usually raise their foot by first curling the toes, resulting in overuse of the tibialis anterior muscles. In conjunction with this they will usually have poor biomechanics of the feet - which causes problems like overpronation.

Although the initial pain can be settled with rest, unless you correct the muscle control, body position and biomechanics the pain will return quickly when you hit the road again as you have not corrected the underlying cause.

I would recommend that you seek an assessment with a sports physiotherapist who has an understanding of running biomechanics and also input from a podiatrist who can advise you on specific trainers for your particular foot type.

Kind regards

Angela Benjamin

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