Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are surprisingly common in the running community. Upwards of 41% of female runners and 34% of male runners report having suffered shin splints. A 2014 study showed that shin splints are the most common running injury!

But what exactly are shin splints, why do they happen, and what can you do to stop them?

After reading this, you will better understand what shin splints are and how Chiropractic care can help you avoid this nagging injury!

What Are Shin Splints and Why Do They Happen?

Shin splints are a trademark discomfort along the inside of your lower leg. This pain occurs due to injury to overworked muscles and additional stress to one of the bones in your lower leg, the tibia.

Although there is no single cause of shin splints, numerous possible factors come into play. These include:

  • Muscle tightness/weakness
  • Decreased bone density
  • Improper running form
  • A rapid increase in running mileage

Understanding that there is no single cause, we need a well-rounded approach to reduce your risk of shin splints!

Make Sure You Have Shin Splints

Before I get into how you can help reduce your risk of shin splints, I HIGHLY encourage you to get assessed if you are currently experiencing lower leg pain. I had had many patients in Saskatoon seeking Chiropractic care for shin splints when in reality, shin splints were not the injury they were dealing with at all.

A study performed in 2019 called Extremity Pain of a Spinal Source shows that there is roughly a 40% chance that the pain someone is experiencing in their shins may be referred pain from their low back.

Below is a dermatome mapping of low back pain referral, and as you can see, the inside of the shin can be referred pain from L4.

By studying neurodynamics, we also know that the posterior tibial nerve runs along the inside of the lower leg. Nerves are blood-filled, pressurized tubes, and if something disturbs their blood flow, this will often result in pain. If the posterior tibial nerve experiences a lack of blood flow, this can result in pain along the inside of your shin.

If you are currently experiencing pain along the inside of your leg that may seem like shin splints, I encourage you to book an appointment and get assessed! Chiropractic care in Saskatoon can be highly beneficial in treating pain, but the right treatment tool is necessary depending on what is causing the pain along your shin.

 5 Ways to Reduce Shin Splints

1. Correct Over-Striding

Running is a highly complex movement requiring over 200 muscles!

One of the most common faults in distanced running is “over-striding.” When you are running, your foot should not contact the ground more than 4-6 inches in front of your hips. If your foot reaches the ground too far in front of your, this results in over-striding.

The most harmful effect of over-striding is a braking gait. A braking gait means that your foot is landing too far in front of you when your foot hits the ground, resulting in the muscular effort first to slow you down and then use additional muscular effort to push you forward.

If that sounds like a lot of work, IT IS! A braking gait puts A LOT of stress on the muscles of your lower leg, specifically the ones along the inside of your lower leg, which may result in shin splints. You can only imagine why your muscles would start to get a little bit grumpy after doing this hundreds to thousands of times while out for a run.

To fix over striding, focus on having your foot land directly beneath your hips as you run.

Here are some drills you can do to help enforce this habit!

2. Increase Cadence

Cadence is the number of times our feet hit the ground or steps per minute. A low cadence results in longer strides, often resulting in the braking gait we just talked about above!

Keeping a mental tab of your cadence is pretty tricky, so one of my favourite tricks is to find a playlist on Spotify or

Apple Music, and search based on beats per minute! The comfortable spot that you want to be at is between 160-200 beats per minute. Start at the lower end and work your way up based on your comfort levels.

 

3. Use a Midfoot Strike 

There are three primary contacts for runners; rearfoot strike, midfoot strike and a forefoot strike. These are referring to what portion of your foot will contact the ground with each step.

A rearfoot strike is when your heel touches the ground, a midfoot strike is a relatively flat-footed contact, and a forefoot striking pattern results in you contacting the ground with the balls of your feet.

 

The mechanics of sprinting and distance running are very different! For a sprinter, anything other than a forefoot contact would cause decreased performance.

The choice typically lies between a rearfoot and a midfoot strike for distance running, with a rearfoot strike being the most common.

Generally, most people naturally choose a striking pattern for various reasons, and whichever striking pattern they use is the correct one for their body.

When experiencing shin splints, a temporary change to a midfoot strike may be beneficial. Again, this temporary change helps decrease over-striding and helps bring your contact point closer beneath your hips.

 4. Strengthen Lower Leg, Feet and Hip Musculature

As I had mentioned previously, running is complex, and it involves over 200 muscles working together to create your running form. Being strong in these muscles is very important and also affects shin splints.

A study followed cadets in training for 12 months, assessing both male and female cadets. After a 12-month training program, the study found that those that experienced shin splints had smaller calves and weaker hips.

A recent study in November of 2020 showed that proper foot strengthening decreased the injury rate by 2.42 fold!

A proper strengthening program is critical to ensure that your hips, calves and feet are strong enough to handle the stresses of running and decrease your risk of experiencing shin splints. If you need assistance with the proper strengthening of your feet, leg and hips, our Saskatoon Chiropractors are well equipped to provide you with the care you need!

5. Nutrition and Supplementation

Proper nutrition and supplementation are essential for everyone, but especially for those who are running and active.

As I mentioned in the introduction, shin splints are an injury to your lower leg muscle and involve the bone itself. Proper nutrition will aid in the healing of the muscles and ensure that you have the adequate bone density to withstand the stress of running.

Supplements to consider are:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Protein

Supplements SUPPLEMENT your diet. You should not rely on supplementation to get all of your vitamins and minerals. Ensure that you are eating a well-rounded diet that provides you with the vitamins, minerals and protein necessary to achieve your goals.

The Dont’s Of Shin Splints

There are five awesome things you can do to help decrease your risk of shin splints! However, there are also two myths to avoid with shin splints.

  • Avoid Using NSAIDs (Advil, ibuprofen, etc.)
    • Although these may temporarily help with pain and discomfort, they decrease your body’s ability to heal.
    • Using NSAIDs will result in longer healing times and potentially not heading back to 100%.
  • Stretching will not take away your shin splints
    • Shin splints are a strength and gait issue.
    • Stretching will not make you stronger or improve your gait. Stretching a weak muscle can make your gait worse and create a revolving cycle of injury.

Now What?

If you are currently not experiencing shin splints, these five tips will help you become a stronger runner and decrease your risk of injury in the future!

If you are currently experiencing pain along your lower leg, I highly recommend getting your pain assessed! E3 Chiropractic + Wellness is well equipped to help anyone in Saskatoon experiencing shin splints. Our Saskatoon Chiropractors will perform a thorough assessment to ensure that you receive the correct Chiropractic care for your injury.

Click HERE to book an appointment with E3 Chiropractic + Wellness today!

Dr. Kurtis Gryba

Dr. Kurtis Gryba

Chiropractor

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