If you've ever wondered why it's so common to see athletes and runners wearing calf compression apparel, the answer is largely connected to the risk of shin splints for frequent runners. Shin splints are a common, yet debilitating condition that many runners suffer from - often when they attempt to push themselves farther or faster on the track, attempt to compete in events like marathons, or simply don't take enough recovery time to rest between workouts.
As fantastic as running can be for keeping you fit and healthy, the presence of shin splints and calf injuries can represent a serious problem for active individuals - that's why it's so important to make sure you're fully educated about what shin splints are, and why they occur.
What Are Shin Splints?
The term shin splint, on a basic level, simply refers to leg pain in the shin/calf area that has been induced by exercise. The most common type of exercise-induced pain surrounding the legs is known as "medial tibial stress syndrome" (MTSS), and this is the more scientific term typically used by doctors to describe shin splints.
MTSS happens when the muscle located behind the shin begins to pull away from the bone in response to repetitive or enhanced pressure. There's a sheath located around this bone that is known as the "periosteum", and when it becomes inflamed, this causes severe pain in the runner's legs. If an athlete then continues to push on without treatment, he or she may risk fracture in the shin bone.
If a shin splint is caught early enough, and given the appropriate treatment, it's possible to prevent a full-blown stress fracture - an injury that would involve being placed in a recovery boot and required to avoid running for at least twelve weeks.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are perhaps one of the most common forms of "overuse injuries". As the name suggests, overuse injuries occur as a response to someone over-exerting a particular set of muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones.
One of the most common causes of MTSS comes from poorly controlled, or somewhat excessive flattening within the foot during running - an action known as "pronation". While pronation is a relatively normal movement that assists with shock absorption in the foot, efficiency during running relies on the athlete to find a good balance between supination and pronation. When the athlete is suffering from tight calves, fatigue, and gluteal activation problems, they may struggle to control the way the foot moves as it hits the ground, leading to excessive pressure and shock to the shin bone.
In most cases, patients suffering from MTSS find that switching out their running equipment for accessories that support good running form - such as supportive shoes and calf compression apparel, can decrease their symptoms and reduce the risk of further injury in the future. However, it's also often important to work on finding new ways to strengthen the muscle around the shin and ensure that the full leg is capable of spreading the impact of the run out across the muscles and ligaments for a reduced chance of injury.