Question: Why does my shin hurt when I begin a run?
Answer: This is something that many of us have wondered at some point. And, there are many contributing factors to this pain.
That pain you feel in the front of your shins is known as shin splints. This is a condition that has stopped plenty of runners at some point during their regime, which can be quite heartbreaking for those who are just getting started. That familiar pain in the front of your shins can disrupt your schedule, especially if you are aiming to compete in an upcoming running event.
What are shin splints?
Medial tibial stress syndrome, also known as shin splints, is one of the most common running injuries. One of the most common symptoms is pain on the inside of the shin. You may also have an aching pain directly on the front of the shin on the border of the tibia and the calf muscle. This pain can be felt while you are walking, running and may also be sore when you massage the area. Generally, it will start hurting at the end of your workout.
Can I keep running with shin splints?
Some people try to keep pushing through the pain to think that it will like ease as they continue (no pain, no gain, right?). But, continuing to run with shin splints will make the pain sharper, may give you a burning sensation and is likely to hurt during your entire run. It can also continue to hurt even when you are walking. When you continue to walk or run on shin pain that pain can spread along the entire length of your shin bone. On a more serious note, continuing to run with shin splints can lead to a tibial stress fracture. This means that you would be out of action for up to 6 weeks of no running. This of course can be quite bad if you are aiming for a specific goal such as improved performance in an upcoming run or marathon.
What causes shin splints?
There have been a wide number of studies over the past few years to look at the reasons behind shin splints and why some people get them when others don’t. It would appear that runners that have tibial stress fractures often have larger areas of lower bone density around the fracture. CT scans of people suffering pain appear to have low bone density areas around the location of the pain. With that information, it would appear that the root cause of shin splints it’s due to repeated stress to the bone during exercise.
Just like a skyscraper bowing slightly to support its weight, you may find that your tibia bends backwards very slightly when it is impacted with the ground during your run. For those who run quite frequently or are healthy, this type of stress on the bone will not cause any issues. As you run over time, your tibia is remodelled to be able to respond to the stress of the bend of the bone. Therefore, it makes your bones stronger and thicker. For those who are less experienced runners, this is why shin problems occur when people start to go for runs.
How long does it take to get used to shin splints?
If you want to continue running, over time you will be able to build up your body and your shins to not experience shin splints after a run. However, the remodelling of your tibia to be thicker and stronger and to be able to take on running with ease can take several weeks and even up to a few months to complete. During this time when you are strengthening your shin bones, this is when the bone can be more vulnerable to damage and pain. Although your bone tissue will be stronger after a few weeks or months, you are putting yourself at increased risk for shin splints during this initial phase of building your body up.
Does running on a soft surface help?
Some people suggest that running on grass is a better option than it is to run on hard concrete such as a pavement or a road. However, the leg adjusts in stiffness to compensate for the varying ground that you are running on. The actual force going into the ground will hardly change during your run. There aren’t any studies to show that running on grass is better for you and the potential to reduce shin splints. But there is some evidence that running with thinner shoes on a harder surface may be better as it can decrease the stiffness in your legs.
Overall, you need to give your bones time to adjust to running, especially if you are just starting. Talk to your doctor about reducing the pain in your shins or opt for an over-the-counter pain relief spray to help manage shin splints.