Friday, July 8, 2011

Shin Splints and Side Aches

These are my two biggest complaints when running.  I don't always get side aches, just once in a while and for some reason when running down a steep hill.  Shin splints come and go and are quite annoying.  I'm guessing that many of you have experienced these same ailments.  So I thought I'd devote a post to identifying causes and treatments for shin splints and side aches.

When I attempted to run track in 7th grade, my coach gave a long speech about shin splints.  I cannot remember a single word he said because once he said shin splints, my mind was off thinking about having my shins splinter and disintergrate while I was running.  Luckily, that's not what actually happens. 
"The term shin splints is a name often given to any pain at the front of the lower leg. However, true shin splints symptoms occur at the front inside of the shin bone and can arise from a number of causes."  My "true" shin splints occur when I run fast or down a hill.  However, many people experience shin splints all of the sudden without any change in running terrain or speed.  These people are probably experiencing shin splints because of overuse.  All of these things can cause inflammation in the shins and that's where the shin splints come from. 

Symptoms include:
  • Pain over the inside lower half of the shin.

  • Pain at the start of exercise which often eases as the session continues

  • Pain often returns after activity and may be at its worse the next morning.

  • Sometimes some swelling.

  • Lumps and bumps may be felt when feeling the inside of the shin bone.

  • Pain when the toes or foot are bent downwards.

  • A redness over the inside of the shin (not always present).

  • What's the treatment, doc?  I've found several different things you can do for treatment.  The biggest one is to rest the legs.  Tone down the training or give yourself a few days to recover.  Whatever you do, just rest a bit.  You might try something with low-impact like swimming for a while.  Massage (which helps condition the legs muscles), icing and using heat also help.  If you choose massage, I highly recommend going to a professional.  If done incorrectly, you could actually make the situation worse.  You can also use some anti-inflammatory painkillers for relief, but in the end, you need to look at your running technique and what you strap to your feet before a run.  If your feet turn outward or inward while running, this is a problem.  If your shoes are not supportive enough, this too is a problem.  Fix these problems and your days with shin splints might just go away.   A good shoe can fix many of the woes we experience as runners. 

    Rarely, shin splints are actually caused by small stress fractures in the shin.  This is rare, but possible.  I would suggest that if the above methods are doing anything, then you need to get checked out. 

    Source:  The Sports Injury Clinic


    You know where the side ache occurs.  In your side, duh!  But what did you do to deserve such an annoying and performance hindering ache?  Researchers are still looking into what the pain actually is, whether it's the ligaments and muscles or the diaphram and liver or all of the above.  Frankly, I could care less, I just want it to stop.  What researchers DO know is that it's all a breathing issue.  "The diaphragm - and other stomach muscles - participate in the breathing process. They move every time we breath in or out. When we inhale, we move air into the lungs, expanding them. This forces the diaphragm and other muscles down. When we exhale, we expel the air and as the lungs shrink these muscles move back up. Some think rapid moving up and down can eventually cause a spasm of the diaphragm or other related muscles or ligaments." 
    There are a few things you can do to help you quickly recover, while running, and get rid of your side ache.  Obviously stopping will help, but what if you don't want to stop.  Well then, check your breathing.  If you're taking short, rapid breaths, you need to concentrate on taking in longer, deeper breaths.  You might need to accompany this with a slower pace for a while.   "This technique alone will often bring many runners some relief. Then, as you pick up speed again, remember to add a very deep breath every so often."

    "Other methods are also related to how and when we breath during running. Some runners have reported relief from side stitches by focusing on somewhat forceful exhaling while running hard. They purse their lips and force the air out for several breaths, as if blowing out candles on a birthday cake. "

    You'll probably need to try several different methods of breathing before you find what works for you.  It all depends on what is causing the ache, so experiment and soon that side ache will subside.  You may also want to check your posture.  If you are leaning too far foward or backward, you could be putting to much strain on the muscles and ligaments surrounding your abdomen and diaphragm.  I find that the straighter I keep my posture when running, the better I run and the easier I run.

    Source:  The Dreaded Side Stitch

    Comment time:  What have you done to successfully get rid of either side aches or shin splints in the past?  Share your experiences with us!


    Jani said...

    As always, love your blog. Not only information but entertaining. Only one suggestion - use yourself as a model to accompany your blogs!!! I would love to see you bent over from sideaches! No, not really, but pictures of you are a lot more interesting than some model!! love you.

    Anna said...

    If I were more photogenic, I would!

    Jani said...

    Uh, excuse me??? When did you suddenly stop being photogenic! Shame on you for spreading such lies!