Shin splints aren’t really a single medical condition. Instead, they’re just a symptom of an underlying problem. They might be caused by irritated and swollen muscles, often caused by overuse. Stress fractures, which are tiny, hairline breaks in the lower leg bones may also occur. Overpronation or ”flat feet” — when the impact of a step causes the arch of your foot to collapse causes stretching of the muscles and tendons. Runners might also get shin splints after increasing workout intensity, or changing the surface they run on — like shifting from a dirt path to asphalt.
What Do Shin Splints Feel Like?
Shin splints cause an aching pain in the front of the lower leg. Some people feel it only during exercise; others, when they’ve stopped exercising. Othertimes, the pain is constant. Depending on the exact cause, the pain may be located along either side of the shinbone or in the muscles. The area may be painful to the touch. Swollen muscles can sometimes irritate the nerves in the feet, causing them to feel weak or numb
Typical treatment often includes a combination of ice, rest, pain relievers, and strengthening exercises. In my experience performing massage on runners, I have found many cases can be treated through massage in a few sessions for those with serious pain levels. Massage also appears to help if the pain is found on the lower inside of the shin area (versus the front, outside shin area). If shin pain is found in only one leg, there is a chance there is a muscle imbalance of strength and flexibility somewhere else in the body.
When working this area, I spend a lot of time on the calf and foot muscles. Once the muscle has been treated, focus on running technique should also help keep shin pain away and keep you on the road logging miles!