University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Dan Fick, MD
Associate Professor of Family Medicine
First Published: November 2000
Last Revised: September 2003
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
Spring fever is in the air and many people head outdoors for their
exercise and sports competitions. Be aware that when you begin a
vigorous running program, you may develop shin splints.
"Shin splints are the most common overuse injury for runners, and
they are often the result of weakness in the muscles that lift the
foot up," says Dr. Daniel S. Fick, associate clinical professor of
family practice at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and
staff physician at UI Hospitals and Clinics.
Shin splints describes the pain and discomfort a runner feels on
either side of the shin bone, called the tibia. Some people start a
running program to lose weight, improve fitness, or to train for
competition--in all cases shin splints can occur. As you run, the
muscles that lift the foot complete that motion more than 1,500 times
per mile, and your legs absorb two to three times your body weight.
High mileage, running surfaces, running intensity, and shoe choice
can also contribute to injuries during running, Fick says.
"I tell runners just to remember the rule of too's: Don't run too
much, too soon, or too fast, and make sure your shoes aren't too
old," Fick says.
The average pair of running shoes can log about 300 to 500 miles,
and that's only if a person uses the shoes just for workouts. Walking
around every day in running shoes causes wear and tear and decreases
the shoes' mileage capacity.
People who do not experience pain while running probably can
continue to run, but should take precautions to maintain their
health, Fick says.
"Take a day off or switch activities to give legs a rest now and
then," Fick says. "Take the time to get at least a 10- to 15-minute
warm-up before a run and cool-down afterwards. Also take the time to
stretch. Pain-free stretching is essential to help increase muscle
and tendon strength."
If shin splints develop, you should massage the painful area with
ice eight to 10 minutes, two to three times per day, especially after
workouts, Fick says. "Avoid using heat. And you can take ibuprofen
for one to two weeks, according to label directions, to help reduce
inflammation in the leg muscles."
If you experience pain during a workout, it's time for a break
from running, and an alternative pain- free activity should replace
it, Fick says. " A runner's injuries will never heal if he or she
keeps runningthrough the pain."
For more information about shin splints and other runner's
injuries, talk to your physician.