Runners will be very familiar with the term ‘shin splints’ and many of us have probably experienced this at some point in our lives. Shin splints describes a condition known medically as media tibial stress syndrome, whereby pain is felt anywhere along the shin bone from the knee to the ankle. The affected area becomes tender and sore when touched, and the skin of the affected area becomes inflamed and red.
The exact cause of shin splints is unknown. It's thought to be caused by the tendons and muscles that run the length of the shin tugging on the bone and creating inflammation. In the lower leg we have two bones – the fibula and the tibia – both of which have muscles attached to them to help move feet. However, more recent research suggests it may be a stress reaction from the bones themselves. For example, repetitive trauma to the tibia when the heel repeatedly lands on a hard surface may interfere with the bones ability to re-model and repair itself.
High impact activities such as running on concrete or other hard surfaces can contribute to the development of shin splints. Other risk factors include over-training beyond your fitness level, increasing the intensity or duration of training too quickly, running on sloping ground, poor running technique, having flat feet or a previous injury. Hence, thoroughly warming up before exercising, reducing the intensity of your training and placing shock-absorbing insoles in your running shoes can all help in preventing shin splints.
If you’re experiencing shin splints, rest your legs and apply an icepack to the affected area for 10-20 minutes regularly. Anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, can also be used to help ease the pain. A natural anti-inflammatory, devil’s claw which has been traditionally been used for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties may be useful. Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties, such as in Absolute Omega, Blackmores Lyprinol and Swisse Ultiboost Wild Fish Oil.
A calcium or magnesium supplement may also be useful by assisting in keeping healthy bones and muscles. Blackmores Total Calcium and Magnesium is a formulation that contains both these supplements. Silica, such as in Blooms Super Colloidal Silica and VitaScience Ultra Silica Complex, also supports healthy bones and cartilage and is needed for the formation of connective tissue, including tendons, bones, nails and skin. Make sure to seek medical advice for any sporting injuries to ensure the problem is correctly diagnosed and properly treated.