And now I have shin splints...........
September 16, 2014 1:58 PM   Subscribe

I've been participating in a training program recently to improve my stamina, endurance and speed when running. The eventual goal is to be able to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes or less. First it was Plantar Fasciitis and now this!!!!!!

I can cope with the Plantar Fasciitis mainly because it doesn't hurt while I'm running. I can train to my hearts' content and then deal with the painful right heel afterwards. I've been using a Yamuna Foot Waker and various stretched to help with the heel pain, and I was at a stage whereby the pain in the heel is almost completely gone, definitely manageable.

However, I've been getting some pain in my lower right calf muscle during runs lately, that makes it impossible to finish a run.

I went for a very casual 1.5 mile run outside the other day and I couldn't complete the run and I ended up limping back home due to an overwhelming and extremely painful calf cramp in one leg.

Anyway, I failed to complete another run yesterday due to the same overwhelming pain in my right calf muscle and after a sleepless night of leg pain I did some googling this morning and these pains sound distinctly like shin splints. I'm devastated.

As I mentioned, Plantar Fasciitis did not prevent me training, but shin splints are severely hindering my ability to do any exercise at all and I'm frustrated and angry because they appear to be very hard to get rid of. This training program is necessary for me to complete for professional reasons and I don't want to stop my training program, although it looks like I may have to.

I already use shoe orthotics and I plan to visit a podiatrist soon. What else can I do to help ease the pain and/or continue training in a safe and pain free way?
posted by JenThePro to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could you clarify why you think they are shin splints--The are usually described as pain in the "shin" and not as a muscle pain or cramp. This definition from wiki is very consistent with my understanding:The main diagnostic criterion clinicians look at for shin splints are a physical examination and clinical history. The physical examination focuses on palpable, or gentle pressure, tenderness over a 4-6 inch section on the lower, inside shin area.[20] The pain has been described as a dull ache to an intense pain that increases during exercise, and some individuals experience swelling in the pain area Also, it usually subsides when at rest but my reoccur when walking/running.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:09 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've read several articles today about Shin Splints that never once mention the "shin" as being the problem zone.....

What are shin splints symptoms?

Shin splints cause pain in the front of the outer leg below the knee. The pain of shin splints is characteristically located on the outer edge of the mid region of the leg next to the shinbone (tibia). An area of discomfort measuring 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) in length is frequently present. Pain is often noted at the early portion of the workout, then lessens, only to reappear near the end of the training session. Shin splint discomfort is often described as dull at first. However, with continuing trauma, the pain can become so extreme as to cause the athlete to stop workouts altogether.

No - I haven't had an actual diagnosis, but based on what I've read, I'm fairly certain this is the pain I'm feeling. If not Shin Splints, then what?
posted by JenThePro at 2:25 PM on September 16, 2014

Best answer: First, the basics: don't run through that kind of pain. (And, in fact, it's possible that you altered your stride while suffering through the PF, and that might have affected muscular balances.)

Next, I agree that it's unclear that this is necessarily shin splints. But whatever it is, you should definitely see a physical therapist. The issue may not be related to your foot shape/fall, but could be happening because of the way your body moves and the compensation of one muscle (say the hamstring) for another. As a woman, I've found that making sure that my glutes are strong helps keep me painfree throughout my legs...when I slack on my strength training, then I get everything from calf twinges to knee twinges to ITB tightness and pain.

Good luck! I know it's frustrating... I just sat out a good 6 months with no running... so you may want to find an alternative cardiovascular exercise while you troubleshoot this.
posted by correcaminos at 2:27 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

In addition to a podiatrist you may want to see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine for runners (usually an orthopedist but often a specialized podiatrist), especially if your career depends on this.
posted by muddgirl at 2:28 PM on September 16, 2014

If it's actually shin splints, it is literally tiny bone fractures. You can just keep running on it and let it turn into bigger fractures until you have to take time off walking around ( a serious option if your training is only going for another couple weeks), or you can rest it and let it fully heal.

But, shin splints don't cause calf cramps, they cause tender and aching spots on your leg. I think you've misdiagnosed yourself and should see a sports medicine doctor. You could have strained your calf, you could have a weak achilles heel/knee/hip on one side that makes you overcompensate with your calf muscle, etc.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:29 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the pain in is your calf, I agree that it's not shin splints and may be a calf muscle strain. Don't run on it for a while and if it persists see a doctor.

If you can bike pain-free that might be an alternative to allow you to increase your fitness while you recover.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:30 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you trying qi running or whatever the forefoot-landing fad is called? That's rough on calves, even for experienced runners. I tried that one summer and while wearing unsupportive street shoes when not running, and got unpleasant calf pain.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:33 PM on September 16, 2014

Best answer: Agree with the others that it may not be shin splints. A sports medicine doctor may be your best bet. When I was younger and a way more active runner, I had bad shin splints that were diagnosed by a sports doctor. The pain was in my shins, the front of my legs, and it didn't feel like muscle pain, more of a sharp pain that increased with walking, and especially running. My advice would be to listen to your body. If you push yourself too hard, you can cause damage. When I had shin splints, my doctor yelled at me for continuing to train, because apparently he thought I was just a run or two away from severely fracturing my leg. I took time off, and they healed. I used the time off to stay in shape by biking and doing other non-impact type activities as much as I could. If the pain isn't that bad, you can ice it, rest and use compression to try to alleviate pain so you can continue training. They make shin-splint sleeves you can buy at places like CVS or Target, etc to help alleviate pain.
posted by FireFountain at 2:40 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look at a diagram of the lower leg. In front there's the shin bone - the tibia - flanked outboard by the tibialis anterior muscle, which brings your foot toward your knee. In the back the gastrocnemius and soleus point your toes.

When people say, "calf strain" or cramp, they generally mean in the gastrocnemius. I used to get foot cramps from the gastrocnemius going apeshit when I wasn't eating well. When you mess up your calf, it hurts to rise up on your toes.

Shin splints, on the other hand, are in the front of the lower leg, and are in the bone, right about at the fleshiest part of the tibialis anterior. The t.a. generally doesn't get messed up from light running. My understanding of shin splints - the bone pain - is that the condition is due to poor footfall techniques combined with a weak or short tibialis anterior (compared to the gastrocnemius).

I used to get shin splints all the time. Then I started stretching the tibialis anterior: While seated, roll your toes under so the tops of your toes are on the floor. You'll feel stretching in your ankle and in the shin. If you can work up to it, I used to stand facing the back of a couch with my arms holding most of my weight on the couch, then roll my toes over (both feet) and lighten up on my arms. Hold on to the back of the couch and bend your knees so your butt draws away from the couch. You'll feel the stretch.

Doing that stretch turned me from a non-runner into a runner.
posted by notsnot at 8:22 PM on September 16, 2014

Best answer: I'm a failed runner, but I had plantar fasciitis. Thought it was under control, then I developed insane calf cramping and tightness in the achilles tendon. In my case, everything was related -- a whole series of muscles from foot to glutes that were simply wildly, ridiculously tight and riddled with scar tissue. Though I stretched (and continue to stretch) religiously, I just could never stretch enough. A few courses of ART from my physiotherapist was the only thing that helped, so you might want to consider seeing a PT. There might be more to this than you think!
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 5:56 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm only a baby runner, but your description doesn't sound like shin splits. It sounds a bit like what I got when I switched my gait from heel strike to mid-foot strike. Initially I was over correcting and getting more of a fore-foot strike and that started to kill my lower calfs. Usually it was fine during the actual run, but for the next two days stairs sucked. I never actually had cramps. I couldn't run more than every day, and often only ever third day. I eventually got better with foam rolling daily, and icing my left calf. It took about a month. Do your problem calf feel hard as stone when you're not running/relaxed?

I'd suggest looking at your gait for the source of the new pain and treat with foam rolling and ice. While my gait is now pretty consistently midfoot, my calfs are also definitely stronger. Do you you-tube searches for heel strike, mid foot strike and forefoot strike. See if you can get someone to record you when you do an easy run, and separately when you're pushing the pace.

Additionally, many people with leg cramp issues find their problems lessened with increased potassium intake. I've never had issues with muscle cramps since I was in high school, but since I started running I've been eating a banana a day. Sweet potatoes yogurt and spinach are also great sources. Some just go for supplements - I imagine they're cheap as far as supplements go.
posted by nobeagle at 7:04 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

Looks like I might have overreacted and mis-diagnosed myself.... damn internet :)
I'm going to go and see a Sports Doctor and get some professional advice. Very possibly the Plantar Fasciitis has me walking weirdly which is causing a pain in my calf muscle.
Thanks for all the advice and anecdotes..... I agree that a professional is my best bet!
posted by JenThePro at 7:06 AM on September 17, 2014

Try to use orthotics in your sneakers.

I use a pair i bough from costco a year ago. From a brand called orthera. I have bought these for several of my friends and they love them. They are green and made from materials that i have only seen from ones you get from the doctors office. Would highly recommend a pair. I even use the dress version in my dress shoes.
posted by sukhisingh at 5:33 PM on April 25, 2015

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