Analyzing Runner’s Shin Pain

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Recreational running is great exercise and a great way to keep your cardiovascular system healthy. While there are many benefits to running, injury is also possible. Proper pacing, shoes and knowing your limits are important factors to consider when you are planning a running regimen.

analyzing runners shin pain
Image source: darkmatter

One of the most common problems runners may face is shin pain. Shin pain can be caused by a variety of issues that are covered in this article.

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) goes by another name that every runner and many non-runners have heard of: shin splints. Most people attribute any shin pain they may be experiencing to MTSS. But while MTSS could be the issue, many times it isn’t.

MTSS refers to pain along the tibia (shin bone) and is caused by placing too much stress on the muscles in the legs. MTSS mainly occurs when a person changes a workout routine or increases the intensity of their workout. The increased stress overworks the muscles, bone tissue and tendons of the legs and MTSS can occur.

Common symptoms of MTSS are a mild swelling of the lower leg and tenderness, soreness and pain along the lower leg. The pain may go away after rest but can continue once you begin to work the leg again. The pain can become continuous after some time.

The best self-treatment for MTSS is to use ice massage on the painful part of the leg for 5-10 minutes, 4-8 times a day for a week. Therapies like myofascial release (soft tissue work) and chiropractic adjusting of the feet, ankles and pelvis can also be very helpful in alleviating the stressors that cause MTSS. Also, limit your exercising to low impact exercises such as biking, swimming or water running to lower the stress placed on your leg.

Do not continue running or any other high impact activities while recovering from MTSS, or too soon after the pain has gone, because you could easily re-injure yourself. If the pain continues after icing your leg, consult your sports injury specialist.

Anterior Compartment Syndrome

Anterior compartment syndrome (ACS) is a painful condition that occurs when pressure within the muscles builds up to high levels. This pressure can decrease blood flow, which prevents nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells.

ACS can cause pain, swelling and even disability in affected muscles of your legs. One way you can tell that you may be suffering from ACS is if the pain, tightness and tenderness do not respond to icing and elevation treatments.

Other symptoms include swelling and hot, stretched and glossy skin and foot numbness. There are also 2 types of ACS: acute and chronic.

  • Acute ACS: An acute compartment syndrome is likely to have followed a direct impact, tear or contusion to the muscle. The pain is more intense than what would be expected from the injury itself and using or stretching the involved muscles increases the pain. Tingling or burning sensations on the skin may be felt, as well as tight muscles. Numbness or paralysis are late signs of ACS and usually indicate permanent injury.
  • Chronic ACS: Symptoms of a chronic compartment syndrome will be similar but will have come on over a period of time. It may be possible for a person to run for a few miles pain-free before the injury comes on, gradually getting worse until running must be stopped. A period of rest will relieve symptoms, only for the ACS to return again a few miles into a run.

You can do cold therapy and rest to help alleviate the symptoms of ACS. A cold press could also help as well. Apply the ice for 20 minutes every hour until the pain and swelling go down. If the pain and swelling do not go down, consulting your doctor is the best course of action.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that appear from repetitive application of force, such as when running. Stress fractures can also appear after normal use of a bone if that bone has been weakened from a pre-existing condition.

Stress fractures are most common in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. You are most at risk of fracturing your leg bone if you take on an exercise program or an activity that is too rigorous for you to handle.

Stress fractures will feel like MTSS at first and the pain will be barely noticeable, but the symptoms will worsen over time. Swelling can also be expected if your leg has suffered a stress fracturing. To help relieve the pain, resting for a few weeks is the best course of action. This will allow the bone to heal and will prevent further injury to the bone.

If ignored, a stress fracture can worsen, even to the point of becoming a full break in the leg, which could then invite an infection to settle in. If the worst should happen, immediate medical attention will be required. To be safe, having an x-ray done to check the afflicted bone would save you some time and trouble so that a minor injury doesn’t turn into a major one.

About Kenneth Dulude

Kenneth Dulude is a writer, avid reader and a history nut. Other hobbies include music (both listening and playing) and cooking.

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