With the cooler autumn weather many runners will increase their mileage possibly preparing for one of the many fall road races.
A common injury many runners (17%) sustain is shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). Shin splints involves trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the lower leg bone called the tibia. When the muscles are over stressed with exercise they become strained. Pain and inflammation ensue. People complain of a deep diffuse dull ache in the lower leg initially upon activity involving impact such as running or jumping. As the condition worsens, the pain is felt with walking, on palpation, and sometimes at rest.
The cause of MTSS involves many factors. Increased tibial stress can result from flat feet leading to overpronation, muscle imbalances such as tight calf muscles, increasing the intensity and duration of running too quickly, excessive hill running (up or down), running on hard surfaces and running in poor shoes. Runners with shin splints should seek physiotherapy treatment to identify the contributing the factors and correct them, resolve the inflammation, and help heal the injured muscle. Trying to run through the pain could lead to a tibial stress fracture. A tibial stress fracture requires 6 to 8weeks of rest and often an air cast is worn for 4 to 6 weeks depending on the symptoms. Return to running after shin splints and /or a stress fracture must be slow and gradual. Moreover muscle imbalances and other factors must be corrected to prevent re-injury.
Written by Susan Reive, Owner of Kilborn Physiotherapy Clinic