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Can I Run a Marathon With Shin Splints?

By Meghan Hicks

What begins as an uncomfortable twinge of pain on the inside of your lower leg during a long training run can quickly evolve into shin splints, an inhibiting sports injury, according to MayoClinic.com. While it is possible to train for and/or to run a marathon with shin splints, perhaps the more comfortable and healthy option is to understand your injury, treat its symptoms and prevent a recurrence.

Definition

Shin splints is a phrase applied to pain, swelling, redness and tenderness along the inside of the lower leg. These symptoms have garnered an official name, medial tibial stress syndrome, and are thought to occur when the tibia's periosteum, or nerve-filled surrounding sheath, becomes inflamed, and/or when the tibialis posterior muscle or tendon inflames, states Sports Injury Clinic.

Causes

Scientific research indicates that shin splints have many plausible causes. Your Orthopaedic Connection, Debbie Craig's "Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: Evidence-Based Prevention" and "Podiatry Today's" "Conquering Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome" list a gamut of shin splint risk factors. Shoe type and degree of wear, exercising surface and hills, training volume and intensity errors, bone density and geometry, biomechanical deviations and amenorrhea in women are all potential shin splint causes.

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Symptoms

Shin splints refers to pain, swelling, redness and tenderness along the medial, or inner, side of the tibia or lower leg. Patients who complain of this kind of pain state that it becomes more intense during activities that involve pounding of the legs, including jumping and downhill running, according to Sports Injury Clinic. They also state that their symptoms continue after a bout of exercise.

Acute Injury Treatment

In "Conquering Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome," "Podiatry Today" emphasizes the importance of activity modification and rest for shin splints treatment. During this time, runners can use cross-training activities that do not impact the lower leg, such as the elliptical trainer, pool running and cycling to maintain their fitness and allow their injury to heal. Ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammation medication may be prescribed by a doctor to address swelling and pain. Sometimes, an air cast, brace or tape is used to impose complete rest on the injury.

Return to Running and Prevention

Once shin splints have abated, runners may carefully and over a period of time return to their training regime. Health care professionals might prescribe stretching and strengthening exercises for your upper legs, lower legs and feet to return injured tissues to their original capacity, and to address other muscle imbalances. Use care to wear new, appropriate shoes for your foot type, to run on soft, flat surfaces, to build a training plan that accounts for a slow build of volume and intensity, and to address biomechanical deviations as you return to training.

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