Managing ‘Shin Splints’ without going to the doctor.
Many runners or exercise enthusiasts will have experienced shin pain (shin splints) at some time or another.
If you are currently dealing with shin pain, which is getting worse or preventing you from doing your favourite activity, here’s a handy guide to help get you back on the running track.
As always, please note: The steps outlined are not based on a diagnosis, but purely some steps to try before you seek medical advice (as it can sometimes be easily remedied). These remedies can help in mild cases… persistent or severe pain needs to be assessed by a qualified professional.
First off, what causes shin splints? Some of the common factors identified as contributing to incidence of shin splints include:
Change in Activity/ Overload:
A sudden increase in mileage or intensity of running can overload your body. This includes HIIT training/ plyometric training (lots of jumping/ running/ burpees etc.).
If you have recently changed your shoes, or indeed not replaced your shoes in years, this can have an effect on your lower body mechanics (how your foot hits the ground) and could be the reason for your pain. It’s always a good idea to chat to a specialist, who may give you an assessment to figure out the perfect shoe fit/ type.
Changes in your foot biomechanics (in other words, how your foot hits the ground and then propels you forward).
This could be caused by:
1) Tight muscles
2) Reduced flexibility
3) Muscle weakness
4) Increased body mass
There are an array of home remedies you can try prior to seeking medical attention, these include:
Plain and simple, you may just need to rest to reduce the inflammation. As much as your endorphins are begging you otherwise, put your feet up and take it easy for a few days.
Every time you land, your foot impacts the ground with a certain amount of force, which is counteracted by an equal and opposite amount of force applied by the ground to your foot. This equal and opposite force is known as the ground reaction force (GRF). By reducing your body mass, you will reduce the ground reaction forces going through your shin. When you are running, 8 times your body weight is been loaded through your single leg, so it’s definitely worth being a bit lighter if you aren’t the weight you should be. Now I hear you say “how do I lose weight if I can’t run?” there are lots of low-impact cardio options available, such as cycling, rowing and swimming.
Change of shoes/ assessment:
Take the guess work out of it and seek a professional to help you get the perfect fit. The extra effort is worth it!
Cross training (mix your schedule up):
This will challenge your body in different ways and will ensure you are not subjecting your body to repetitive movements. Changing things up can stress your body in a different way increasing your strength, improving the way you move.
For runners especially, it can be helpful to your running if you strengthen up your hip area and become more robust in your fitness. More about robustness in our blog here: This is quite important in keeping injury free. A strong, efficient, robust body is one that is resistant to injury.
Increase the range of movement around the ankle, hip and knee to make sure that your kinetic chain (running stride) is as efficient and effective as possible. Why not have a look at this handy advice leaflet about stretching.
Getting a clinical massage therapist to do a thorough assessment on you can help identify areas of tightness and weakness. Creating a specific programme to address any issues could have you back on track in no time. Releasing all the lower limb muscles can also help ease your pain.
Foam rolling the calf muscles:
Controversially, this isn’t always a winner for some people. Personally I’ve felt the benefits, but I’ll leave this one up to you. The technique for this should be as follows:
- Start just below the knee joint, and slowly move down the calf towards the ankle.
- As soon as you hit a sore spot, hold on that spot, breathe in and out, slowly relaxing into the roller.
- Once the pain has reduced by about 10%, slowly move to the next spot.
- Continue until you reach your ankle, keeping movements slow and relaxing into each breath.
- Definitely do not roll up and down quickly
If your symptoms persist, then please, go straight to your GP for help.
Click on the pic below for a handy infographic.