If your shinbone hurts after running, it's likely that you're contending with shin splints. This injury is common among runners and recreational and trained athletes alike. Shin splints are an overuse injury caused by excessive stress on your shinbone, or tibia. Quick recognition and treatment of this injury can prevent it from growing progressively worse over time.
Shin Splint Symptoms
Shin splints are characterized by pain along or right behind your tibia, typically along the inside edge. The localized pain typically extends 4 to 6 inches in length and can include mild swelling. In many cases, the pain is often present during the early and late stages of your workout but often subsides during rest. Shin splint pain will worsen over time, beginning as a dull pain and progressing to a sharp pain that is often painful enough to prevent exercise all together.
Shin Splint Causes
Shin splints result from excessive force on your shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. Suddenly increasing your run pace or distance can lead to this issue. Furthermore, running on hard surfaces, downhill or on sloped surfaces are also triggers, as is improper or worn-out footwear. Finally, activities with sudden starts and stops, such as basketball and tennis, can also play a role in the aggravation of shin splints.
Proper diagnosis requires a physical examination by your doctor and an assessment of your exercise history, but if you believe you have shin splits, several immediate treatment options are suitable. Use ice packs to reduce inflammation or take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Wrapping the injury site with a wide bandage can also reduce your discomfort. Elevate your leg when at rest, especially at night. As with all injuries, the extent of your shin splints will dictate the time frame required for a full recovery.
Ultimately, recovering from shin splints requires time and patience. Establish a stretching and strengthening regimen that focuses on your calf and anterior leg. Avoid any running until your symptoms have completely ceased, which can often take between two to four weeks. While resting, turn to low-impact activities to maintain cardiovascular fitness, such as swimming and riding a stationary bike. When you resume running, begin on a soft, level surface and reduce your distance and intensity level by half. Gradually increase your distance over a three- to six-week period, but avoid increasing your intensity level until after this period.