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The Truth About Shin Splints

Running can be a great way to increase endurance and burn calories. However, this cardiovascular exercise can have its’ drawbacks as well. If people do not train properly or take necessary precautions they can develop many different types of injuries to their feet, ankles, knees, back, or shins. One of the most common injuries a runner can get is shin splints.

Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), or shin splints, occurs when a runner’s feet repetitively pound against a hard surface. The recurring impact that a runner experiences with each step can lead to a stress reaction over time, causing hairline fractures in the tibia and damage to the tissue in the surrounding area. Once the stress reaction begins, it will continue to worsen as long as the patient continues to run.

Shin splints occur in stages so it important to recognize the symptoms early as this is the best way to prevent the most severe damage. The first stage involves pain at the beginning of a workout. While this pain can be sharp, it typically eases as the workout progresses. During the next stage, the pain will not subside during the workout and will instead continue to worsen. The third stage of MTSS prevents most people from running at all as the pain becomes too severe. The final stage, also known as grade four, can even make walking or climbing stairs difficult. By the time the injury reaches this stage, it can take a very long time for a person to heal.

Reducing pain and inflammation are the first steps in treating shin splints. Simply icing and elevating the affected leg can be very beneficial. Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to speed up the process. It is also highly recommended that a runner take off several weeks from running. Shin splints are very painful and can last a long time so it is important to train wisely and treat the injury before it progresses too far.