The issue of shin splints is one that is difficult to deal with for many runners who are suffering from the pain and suffering that can be caused by this common athletic problem. In the U.S., the issue of shin splints can affect a high number of athletes at all levels with some studies showing between 12 and 15 percent of high school cross country teams are affected by shin splints at any one time. Understanding what are shin splints is one of the first steps to take to understand exactly how these medical conditions can affect performance is the first step towards addressing and solving the problem.

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints is the common name for a medical condition scientifically titled, medial tibial stress syndrome. The most commonly reported pain associated with shin splints is that of a nagging pain moving through the inside portion of the tibia, lower leg. Identifying the source of the pain as shin splints are needed because the correct shin splints treatment cannot be undertaken without a proper diagnosis.

There are a number of reasons why you can be affected by shin splints with the majority of those affected being people who have only recently taken up running. In general, this medical condition affecting the lower leg is caused by a sudden intensification in exercise with many novice runners pushing themselves too hard early in their career to produce small tears in the lower leg muscles.

What are the Causes of Shin Splints?

When you mention you are suffering from shin splints you could find a number of causes to explain why you are suffering from this painful issue. The different causes of shin splints can include:

  • Muscle Strain
  • Stress Fractures
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
  • Exertional Compartment Syndrome

The most common reason for the pain you associate with shin splints taking place is damage done to the muscles that control the lifting and lowering of your leg as you run. Runners will usually damage two prominent muscles of the tibialis anterior and the tibialis posterior. Pain is caused when you find yourself increasing your running schedule leaving you with torn muscles that are too short to complete their given task leading to pain.

Stress fractures tend to occur when you have damaged the muscles of the lower leg and your body begins to pass on the strain of impacts from running to your lower leg bones. These bones are not prepared for the consistent impacts they will face leading to the development of small breaks in the tibia that cause pain when you run.

Both medial tibial stress syndrome and exertional compartment syndrome are not as common as the other forms of shin splints and are still being researched to develop a complete understanding of them. Exertional compartment syndrome is a condition that is not commonly seen in runners but can cause pain only when physical activity is undertaken.

The Symptoms of Shin Splints

The first signs of shin splints in most runners will be tenderness or soreness in the lower leg when you are exercising that may recede soon after you come to the end of your run. What is usually noticeable when you are struggling with shin splints is the pain and tenderness will grow worse as you move forward with your exercise plan and increase your intensity levels.

How are Shin Splints Treated?

The first step should always be to seek a diagnosis from your doctor to make sure you are treating the correct condition. If you are a dedicated runner, you will usually find your physician will recommend a shin splints treatment that will include a large amount of rest from the exercise causing you pain.

One of the big issues facing you as a runner with shin splints is that you will need to check your shoes are up to the task you are setting them. Shoes that do not provide you with the correct levels of support and cushioning to protect the muscles and bones of your leg. Concerns about your shoes are one thing, but you should always stick to the ten-percent rule when building your exercise levels. Running experts recommend you should never add more than ten-percent of exercise onto your regular schedule to keep yourself from suffering a serious injury.

You can also make a few changes to the way you are looking to care for your body in terms of fitness levels and the style you use to run. A powerful core offers a balanced and supportive body for your running technique with a shortened stride reducing your chances of suffering from shin splints.

Now you have an answer to the question, what are shin splints? You can set about avoiding these painful problems that will often lead to you having to replace running with swimming or a stationary bike for a short period of time to maintain your fitness as you rest your injured lower legs.