What to do when you get shin splints?

Recently, our CEO, Tom has been having a little bit of trouble with his shins. Here he is talking about some of our experience. Disclaimer – this advice is based on the experience of one athlete, if you experience any pain you should see a qualified professional to obtain a diagnosis and a treatment plan. The best way to avoid injury is a well structured training plan which avoids mileage jumps, sleeping and eating well and a well structured strength and conditioning programme. Here’s what he had to say…

It all started with a bit of tightness down the inside of my right shin, I ignored it for a while and it gradually turned into pain. The pain wasn’t unmanageable though and I continued to run, eventually this progressed into serious pain which prevented me from running. It was at this point I decided to see a physio…

  • Lesson 1 – see a physio as soon as you get pain! It’ll decrease the amount of time you spend away from running and also decrease the amount of money you spend at the physio. Earlier intervention is always better.

The physiotherapist told me I was suffering from shin splints and that I’d need 4-8 weeks off running. This length of time away from running could’ve been reduced or avoided had I gone earlier. I was able to keep swimming and cycling although I had one week of very limited activity to let the initial inflammation go down.

  • Lesson 2 – don’t panic about fitness! Fitness comes and goes, professional athletes have forced (and optional) time away from running and still come back and win. When the physio says x number of weeks, listen!

I had a series of rehabilitation exercises that I’ve been religious about. Twice a day every day and I passed my hop test after 4 weeks (I hopped 12 times pain free) which means I can now consider a graded return to running. I was tempted to head straight out the door and run but I decided to give it another week and two more hop tests. Patience is key here and will be rewarded long term.

  • Lesson 3 – DO YOUR REHAB! This is the most important one, if you don’t do your rehab then you won’t get better. Plan time to do the exercises. Physios know what they’re talking about and you should do what they say.

So, now I’m ready to return to running. I will do this slowly starting out with a 5 minute jog and won’t do any speed work for at least 6 weeks. I don’t want to undo all my hard work. Injuries happen to everyone and are part of being a runner. Most injuries are avoidable though which leads us to our final lesson.

  • Lesson 4 – Learn from your mistakes! Injuries happen due to a series of contributing factors which can be increasing mileage too quickly, lack of sleep, lack of attention to strength and conditioning – all sorts. Figure out what contributed to you injury and develop better habits.

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