I recently posted that I’ve incorporated running into my exercise routine. I don’t usually run; I tend to think that I have the centre of gravity of a boulder. This doesn’t mean that I don’t incorporate cardio into my workouts; it simply means that I’ve recently felt the need to up my game a bit.
Now just to be clear, the terms associated with running are subjective. Depending on who you speak to, what I’ve been doing may or may not be “running”. I was speaking with a colleague a few days ago and when I mentioned that I had started running, he said, “Are you actually running, or you’re just jogging? To me, jogging is just jogging. But running is when you go all out!”
I was quick to point out that running all out was usually referred to as sprinting, to which he was quick to offer suggestions that my smart-ass go fornicate itself on a hot rock. But I digress…
Running, much like any exercise, has many different complications and injuries that one can suffer while enjoying it. And “enjoying” is a very lightly-used term… You can pull or tear muscles, twist joints, suffer micro-fractures or experience dehydration or exhaustion. But the condition I want to address today is one that I’ve suffered before and that I seem to be revisiting now: shin splints!
Shin Splints, or what’s medically known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, is a condition that one develops from repetitive, physical stress on the musculature in the leg between the knees and the ankle. You can usually recognize it from a dull or sharp pain in the muscles of the lower leg when exercising and can often be accompanied by some swelling. Sometimes the pain can be excruciating enough that one is forced to stop the physical activity. Continued exercising when one has shin splints can result in micro fractures, which can result in a complete fracture.
What causes shin splints? It can be caused by a number of things, such as starting a new running regiment (sound familiar?), running on a hard surface (I unfortunately run on the street!) or using worn-out shoes that no longer provide proper support to your feet (like my tac boots). Shin splints can also result from the exhaustion of the specified muscle groups, where one continues to exert stress on them. These are only the most common causes and there are many more.
So, what can one do to prevent shin splints? Well, this is one of those situations where less is more. If you’re starting to run, do it gradually. Don’t try to run long distances at great speed on your first week. Stretch out the muscle group, same as you would for any other muscle group before any other type of workout. Make sure your shoes are replaced if worn out, and this will also help to lessen the impact if you’re forced to run on concrete or asphalt.
If you think you may have developed shin splints, there are a few things you can do from home. Keeping your feet elevated and icing your shins is the first step. As with any icing of tissues, keep an ice pack on your shins for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Massaging the shins can also be a help. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen can be taken. But only temporarily and in small doses. Depending n what caused the actual shin splints, the time needed to recovery will differ from person to person. The general recommendation is about two weeks, and if you haven’t recovered by that point, you should consult your medical practitioner.
The important thing is not to rush back into it. This is one of those injuries that genuinely require that you allow your body time to rest and heal. Pushing yourself in this situation can result in true fractures of the leg and force an even LONGER recovery time. Take your time getting back into the routine and be sure to start in small increments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ice my shins! ☯