How to prevent shin splints when running – 4 tips from a physiotherapist

Shin splints are a common injury among runners and the pain normally takes a few weeks to improve. Prevention is always better than the cure, and luckily you don’t have to experience shin splints if you exercise safely. chatted to Sean Flannery, Head Physiotherapist at Harlequins and MyoMaster to find out how to prevent shin splints.

Shin Splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, are a pain felt along the inner edge of your shin that’s usually present during and after training.

This pain is normally an overuse injury caused by small tears in the lower leg muscles, and it is extremely common among runners.

If you are experiencing shin splints right now, the NHS recommends avoiding the exercising that caused shin splints and taking some time away from hardcore exercise while you recover.

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The physiotherapist explained that the most common cause of shin splints is overuse, running too frequently on hard surfaces and wearing worn-out shoes with a lack of cushioning.

Shin splints normally aren’t serious or dangerous, but you do need to treat the pain.

Sean explained: “They are an extremely frustrating and uncomfortable injury but most people can recover from shin splints with a combination of rest, ice and compression within two to three weeks.

“However, if they are left untreated or aren’t rested, and pain persists, they do have the potential to develop into a tibial stress fracture.”

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If you are suffering from shin splints, the NHS recommends taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain.

Try placing an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel on your shin for 20 minutes every two to three hours.

If you must exercise, do so on soft ground or switch to a gentle form of exercise such as yoga or swimming for the time being.

Throw away your old worn-out trainers and buy some new supportive trainers.

How to prevent shin splints

According to Sean, there are four key ways to prevent shin splints. They are:

  • Have a running plan that increases mileage gradually
  • Spend time on your warm-up and recovery before and after every run focusing on your feet and calves
  • Work on strengthening your hip muscles
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces too frequently

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