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I just finished week 1 of the couch to 5k program through active.com and I really want to stick with it. However, I am really discouraged after experiencing shin splints. They started after day 2 and were so bad by today that I was crying by the end of the run/walk.
I broke my heal a couple years ago and have been doing low impact, elliptical and bike, but I just didn't feel like I was getting the workout I need to get in shape.
I am determined to stick with running. Everything I read recommends to stop running but I am doing this with my boyfriend and I don't want to stop now.
Any reccomendations? I read the articles here on shin splints and I'm going to start doing the reccomended exorcizes. I also bought new shoes and compression leg things.
Am I stupid to continue running with the shin splints?
I'm not sure what exercises are recommend on this site - but when I would get shin splints there seemed to be two things that helped the most. First - ice. Ice your shins a lot. Be careful, though, because the skin is thin and it can be burned. Second - strengthening the shin muscles. This can be as simple as hanging a plastic bag (i.e. shopping bag like from Target or a grocery store) with a soup can or two in it. Use your shin muscles to rotate the foot at the ankle and raise and lower the weighted bag.
It's also said that shorter strides can help. In general long strides aren't so good. It's hard to say what is short and what is long. Basically you don't want your foot way out in front of you when you land.
"Kick off your high heel sneakers, it's party time."
-- From the song FM by Steely Dan
When I started running, I also got shin splits. Like Jim recommends, I found that strengthening shin muscles was really helpful. The exercise that I found to be most useful was toe-taps. They're great because you can do them anywhere.
You should feel it most in the muscles just to the outside of your shin bone. You can, of course, do one foot at a time while standing. (Careful about doing it while standing in lines; people think you're getting impatient.)
The toe taps plus either complete rest or walking/very slow running should have you back in the game pretty quickly.
Hope your shins are feeling better soon!
2012 Race Schedule
Providence Marathon (4:48:55)
Buffalo Half-Marathon (2:03:16)
Chicago Marathon (October 7)
On the one hand I want to commend you for toughing it out, but on the other I think the advice to stop or cut back may be warranted. I agree with the others that a strong set of dorsiflexors is what you need, but as you hinted when you said elliptical etc. was not adequate preparation, there is an ideal order for things like this, and the more painful one you have embarked upon.
Dorsiflexors like Tibialis Anterior get sore in new runners for two main reasons. One is that they must lift your toe with each stride to avoid tripping or stubbing your toe. The other reason is that your rear calf muscles, once coddled by your non-impact exercises, now stiffen with near rigor-mortis after all that unaccustomed pounding, and your poor Tib Anterior must fight these much larger stiff muscles to perform its own necessary action. When this muscle and others involved in the same action become stiff, the stiffness on both sides becomes the typical form of shin splints, felt mainly in the smaller muscle Tib. A.
Stiffness or "splinting" is an excess of tonus in a muscle that needs to heal from a multitude of micro-injuries (or micro-tears) that accumulate during excess repetitive motion. While muscle stiffness does not top the list of repetitive motion injuries, it really is one on a microscopic level, and contributes to or directly causes other more serious injuries.
So, in my view, your boyfriend may have to wait for your muscles to heal, which additional exercises, no matter how focused, alone cannot do. You need a little more rest with mild activity to keep things from tightening up further.
Let's look at why shin strengthening exercises can be beneficial: Exercise increases blood flow to involved and neighboring muscles. Increased blood flow delivers the material your immune system's inflammatory response needs to rebuild damaged tissue. It also removes debris and waste product. Your lymphatic system, which has no heart and normally depends on muscle contraction to circulate its subcutaneous and intra-muscular fluids, is also mobilized by exercise. The only problem with this picture is that you already have substantial micro-damage to the muscles that must perform this exercise, and further exercise will produce more. Yes, the goal of stronger muscles is important to preventing shin splints in the first place, but you already have them. What to do?
When done properly, self-massage to the muscles on the involved sides of your lower leg (front, outside and back), will accomplish two of the main benefits of shin exercises during your recovery period. Coupled with mild activity and light post-massage stretching, it will increase circulation and lymphatic flow in the involved tissues to help them heal, without the risk of further damage to your overworked muscles. Most importantly, this protocol will result in relaxed muscle tissue, which will help mitigate and prevent both of the two main causes of shin splints I mentioned above.
I underscore light activity, because rest alone does not properly model healing tissue. The light stresses you place on recovering tissue insure that the organization of collagen fibers involved in repair occurs in a way that results in a stronger muscle. Just letting it heal without these stresses can result in a more chaotic repair. Since this principle also applies to too much stress on the tissue during repair, the idea is to minimize internal scarring while still making it strong and functional. Properly done massage, coupled with light activity and light post-massage stretching, can accomplish this faster than other methods, so that you and your bf can get back to training together sooner.
While ice can certainly help to dull the pain and prevent swelling in the initial stages of an injury, you don't want to overuse anything that depresses immune activity in the area just because it feels better. The practice is controversial, because aside from its analgesic effects, ice is said to increase blood flow by cooling the tissues and causing vasodilation in response to warm the tissue back up. True, but the reason for the circulation in the first place is to increase immune system activity, not to depress it, as ice will do. Healing inflammation actually hurts in many cases, but the pain you feel now can get you back on track sooner than any method that delays your progress. Same goes for anti-inflammatory meds, which slow beneficial inflammation along with the destructive kind.
The key to understanding the difference between good and bad pain and inflammation is to realize that the issue is way more complex than simply stopping or starting it. There are a host of interactive lifestyle and genetic issues that need to be addressed. Adequate conditioning before stress is just one of them. In the future, remember that just jumping into an unfamiliar sport can be quite damaging and painful. Always start by conditioning the parts of your anatomy that will be worked the hardest, as professional athletes do before every competitive season, and you will have less unexpected and unpleasant experiences like shin-splints in the future. For now, a few weeks of R&R and TLC will get you back on the road, so someday, your experience will help other newbie runners avoid the same problem.
Back to self-massage, it can be done improperly or overdone, and often is by people who use foam rollers and sticks. Use you fingers, which should tire long before there is a danger of overdoing it. The problem with rollers is they are hardest to use to influence lymphatic flow in the right direction. When I mentioned that the lymphatic system has no heart, I also said that muscle movement activates it. This is only possible because the lymphatic vessels have valves in them that act as a syphon pump. Pressure on the limbs causes the lymph to move in one direction, toward the center of the body. These valves counter centrifugal force when perfoming exercise, which would otherwise cause the fluids to pool at the extremities.
Most foam-roll demos I have seen show participants rolling with pressure alternately with and against these valves, which can result in valve damage, edema, and superficial varicose veins because veins have the same valves. Don't make this mistake. Any use of rollers needs to be in the intended direction of vascular flow. They are hard to use properly because the user must lift off the roller for the return stroke.. very hard to do against gravity, which supplies the pressure. If they can start incorporating this principle in the videos I would appreciate it, since it would then qualify as a combination core workout, which would also limit over-use of these devices.
To make all this much easier for you, I just work my way around these muscles every day in the shower, with soaped fingers as a lubricant. It doesn't take long, doesn't waste water because the water does not need to be running, and doesn't waste time because a few minutes of this each day when training can save endless hours of rehab later. Get into the spaces between the bones and literally, squeeze out the pain. Consistent, reasonably brief application of this technique will help you spot problems before they become disabling, help keep the tissue recovery ahead of the damage of training, and help you recover when damage occurs.
You can never know too much about your body. To help you "see" under the skin what muscles you are working on, and what they do, here's a helpful interactive tutorial widget...http://www.getbodysmart.com/ap/muscularsystem/footmuscles/menu/menu.html
p.s.: One thing I neglect to mention is the role of footwear in developing shin splints. The longer the toe, the more work for the Tib.P. muscle to keep it from dragging as you bring the leg forward. Most runners are advised to size up on their shoes to allow for expansion of the foot into the toe box. Most toe boxes have an aerodynamic nosecone on the tip, not just as a style point, but possibly as a vestigial nod to the origins of enclosed shoes as a piece of leather curled up and sown to produce a simple shoe, which would then form a point at the tip of the toe box. This look briefly disappeared decades ago from some fashionable footwear, even from some athletic shoes, but has been brought back as a style point. I'm not saying that the trendy barefoot shoes are the only option without this feature, but I sincerely hope that shoe manufacturers can get away from the pointy look on athletic shoes for good some day. There will be less shin splints as a result, and we won't miss the aerodynamics at the speeds we run. Biking may be a different issue.
Message was edited by: James Johnson LMT
Thanks for all the responses. I really appreciate the wealth of information. As much as I don't want to. I think I might take a break for atleast a week and stick with massage and exercises before I push myself to hard that I just give up completely.
I completely understand your dedication to keep running.
What I have found is that shin splintsare usually a result of impacts that are not absorbed well.
Here are 3 video tutorials that willshow you deep tissue treatments to help release some spasms in your foot andshins that may be causing or resulting from this hard landing.
Video Tutorial #75 The Deep TissueTreatment Dr. James Stoxen DC Uses For Shin Splints
Video Tutorial #80 Dr James Stoxen DCDemonstrates How To Self-Help Deep Tissue Treatment Of The Subtalar Joint OfThe Ankle On The Inside.
Video Tutorial #81 Dr James Stoxen DCDemonstrates How To Self-Help Deep Tissue Treatment Of The Ankle (SubtalarJoint Outside)
Video Tutorial #87 Dr James Stoxen DCDemonstrates Self-Help Deep Tissue Of The Ankle Mortise
Here are my last two articles you might find helpful:
How Does The Body Spring Back Safely From Impacts OfRunning and Walking?
Self-Tests & Exercises To Reduce Over Pronationand Over Supination From Impacts During Walking and Running
I hope that this can help you with your ordeal of shin splints and your dedication to keep going. I am sure if you have any more questions or concerns your answers can be found on the link below.
Dr James Stoxen DC, President, Team Doctors TheBarefoot Running Doctor