Why Do My Shins Hurt When Running?

Have you recently taken up running? You may find yourself grabbing for your lower leg or unable to continue. This may be due to shin splints, one of the most common injuries in runners. Any time you start a new form of exercise it is important to not do too much too soon. Even if you were once a long-distance marathon runner, if you have taken a break, you need to slowly get back into the swing of things!


What Are Shins Splints?

Shin splints occur when running on hard surfaces for long periods of time or overuse of the muscles around the shin bone. It is also found in people who have recently intensified their workouts after a period of rest. Athletes who may suffer include runners, gymnasts, dancers, and more. Often symptoms include pain in the leg, typically lower leg, sharp or dull pain in the front of the shin when weight-bearing, and pain that gets better with rest. Different anatomical factors may put you more at risk such as having flat feet, not wearing proper footwear or having a job that requires long periods of standing. 

What Causes Shin Splints? 

Shin splints are, more often than not, an overuse injury. Other causes include:

How to Treat Shin Splints

Resting is the most important treatment for shin splints. Most of the reason shin splints occur is due to overuse, so taking time to let your body recover is crucial. The RICE method (rest, ice, compress, elevate) can be used throughout the day to speed recovery. Try this for 2 weeks, and if the pain persists after a month, it may be time to see an orthopedic doctor near you.



How to Prevent Shin Splints

We encourage all patients to go slow when trying any form of new exercise or movement they have not previously been doing. Doing too much too soon or doing something new is one of the most common reasons for injury. It takes time for your muscles and joints to get used to new activities. Inflammation and pain are responses your body gives you to something unfamiliar. 

The 10% rule

The 10% rule applies to all runners. It is recommended to only increase your mileage by 10% each week to avoid injury. This proven rule is recommended to prevent overuse injuries like shin splints.

How Long Does It Take Shin Splints to Heal?

It can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks for shin splints to heal. If you are not resting, it elongates the time of your recovery. Therefore, take as much time as you can to rest and try doing some other form of cardio other than running.

Exercises for Shin Splints

What Happens if Shin Splints go Untreated?

If you do not give your body the amount of rest it needs to heal, it could lead to an increased risk of stress fractures. Stress fractures are tiny fractures in the bone caused by repeated force to the bone. Weakened muscles around the bone are a cause of stress fractures. Treatment for stress fractures is often crutches or a walking boot.

When to See a Doctor 

If you still have pain after resting for a month, it may be time to see an orthopedic doctor. You could have caused more damage than slight inflammation to the muscles around your shin. It is better to see a doctor and get a full examination rather than letting the injury linger. Our doctors at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics specialize in running injuries and can help get you back on track! See a full list of our providers and their specialties here.

Who Treats Shin Splints at Elite?

All of our doctors are able to treat a simple injury like shin splints, but the doctors who focus on the leg extremity of the body are Drs. Elrod, Moore, Martin, Price, and Dierckman.

Can a Physical Therapist Treat Shin Splints?

Yes, physical therapists are great resources for shin splint treatment. They can even come up with a detailed workout plan to get you back on track and not lose any progress in your running.

Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassie-whittaker-802a3b173

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