Shin splints treatment - to run or not run?

by Christine

Hello! I am dealing with a moderate case of shin splints (I have all the symptoms you outline) - had my 5th child in April and started running again (was extremely active before, during pregnancy).

I was putting in a lot of mileage, but didn't encounter this problem until I started doing some intense hill, interval/speed training. Whoops.

Let's just say I over did it. I really had no idea I was doing the damage until about 3 weeks ago - pain that started in the lower part of the shin and then gradually rose - particularly worse at the end of the day (after I've been on my feet all day)

I stopped running immediately - it's been about 2 1/2 weeks and have cross trained with biking and pilates. Frozen green beans have been my icing method on and off throughout the day.

So here's my question.... they are still bothering me and I am willing to try the ice dipping and dixie cup massage. Should I still not try and run until all the pain subsides?

I have a feeling I could run pain free now, but by the end of the day they would be throbbing again. Most of the dull ache happens then (after a long day with 5 kids!) Will icing in itself further the healing?

I am a morning runner and usually hit the pavement without a lot of stretching, but have had no problems until those hills.

Thank you so much!



Hi Christine.

Whoops indeed! :)

'Damage' wise, the reality is that the ecology of your shins has been changing over time.

Muscles have gotten slowly tighter, connective tissue has slowly constricted/shrunk more and more, tiny levels of the Process of Inflammation have raised higher and higher as you body has done it's job and compensated.

It sounds like the hills put enough strain/pain/tension/change into the dynamic
to push you over a threshold into pain and more inflammation, with some wear and tear damage to boot.

That's how Tendonitis and the Pain Causing Dynamic works.

Ice Dipping is great, overall. I would do that were I you.

And, I definitely would do the Ice Massage as seen on the How To Reduce Inflammation page.

You've been icing off an on, that's good. Now it's time to put some time and intention into working on structure.

Ice dipping will do overall circulation, bad stuff out, good blood and nutrition in.

Ice massage will force that effect in deeper, while at the same time massage and stretch the tissue.

You may even want to get a frozen water bottle and use it like rolling pin on the shins, but drag it instead of roll it.

Make sense?

Also, I would either not run and do other cross training for a couple weeks while you concentrate on the icing and stretching. Or, do run/walks in stead of runs. Just enough to get your cardio up but not doing sustained strain on the shin structures.

As you are a morning runner, take 5 minutes and massage/pound/rub your shins and calves and feet, pre-warm it all up, get it mobile before you go running on less-mobile tissue.

What else?

Ask more questions, get more answers.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Aug 14, 2009
PART 2 - Shin splints treatment - to run or not run?
by: Christine

Joshua - great information, thank you.

I have started the ice massage and will try the ice dipping. I am also wearing my running shoes 24/7 as they are very supportive - barefeet makes the shins ache more.

I tried a few laps (very easy) on the soft outside track and was able to jog/walk without pain. Trying to focus on my gait and not lean too far forward. Only did one mile as opposed to normal 6 or 7. Still have dull aches later in the day - hoping the icing will alleviate that.

A few more questions....

Trying to massage without ice as well during the day ~ will this provide added benefit?

Will the constant icing and subsequent new blood flow ultimately heal the shins? A loaded question, yes, but I've heard of runners taking months off only to return again and the shin splints come back. I think I have found my trigger (hills) so I know at least to avoid those for a long while. Have you seen long term solutions with the icing?

I am not taking motrin (although a nice anti-inflamatory) as I feel that will mask the pain and I won't be able to gauge the results.

One final thought - I"m assuming any ice dipping is beneficial, even if can't do it 10 times every 5 minutes (time constraint)

Thanks for all your time and effort - knowledge is power!


Joshua Answers

Hi Christine.

1. True. Any icing is beneficial. And, the more the merrier.

The trick with icing is that while any amount is beneficial, if one doesn't do -enough- then it won't cause enough benefit to overcome the Downward Spiral of ever increasing tightness and pain.

There's a whole mechanism in place, like stacking weights on a watermelon (I'm just making this one up right now, let's see how it works). Icing removes some weight. But if you don't ice enough, there won't be enough momentum/change to actually remove the weights.

Not the best analogy, but...

2. Due to the Tendonitis dynamic, rest just won't 'cure' Shin Splints Tendonitis.

Rest removes the direct irritant, and lessons a few factors/variables, but it does not reverse the dynamic or the physical changes.

3. Massage without ice. Absolutely.

Dry crunchy sponge, or soft squishy sponge.

By default, we, but specifically for this conversation our shins structures become like a dry crunchy sponge. Essentially this is the Tendonitis dynamic and the reason you have pain.

Ice massage and massage massage moves the sponge from dry and crunchy to soft and squishy.

On one level, it is incredibly simple. Squeeze the sponge.

It may take a lot of work, it may take a little. There are a lot of factors involved.

But, the more you can, and the more often that you can reach down and massage for a 30 seconds or a couple minutes, or constantly while you watch tv or whatever.

And sounds like you're being smart with the running, right on.

Aug 14, 2009
Part 3 - Shin splints treatment - to run or not run?
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Also, I might as well mention Magnesium.

Check out my Magnesium for Tendonitis page and my Kerri's Magnesium Dosage page for more info and amounts.

It may or may not be noticeable for you, but I'm finding that it definitely makes a difference.

Aug 20, 2009
PART 4 - Update - Shin splints treatment - to run or not run?
by: Anonymous

Hi Joshua - I'm having success with the ice massage 4 times a day (still working on the logistics of the ice dipping and getting it cold enough). One more question...

1. I ran on the treadmill one mile painfree - is it still ok to do this even though I have dull achy pain AFTER exercise and not before or during? I know the mantra of stop exercising if it hurts (which i do), but I also know REST won't cure it either. I want to try and stay as active as possible while I heal. I always massage before exercise and ice massage afterwards (both really help).

I don't want to further damage anything, but I feel I am slowly on the road back to normal and would like to slowly start the walking/running again. I think after being on my feet all day (chasing 5 kids) they ache the most in the evening. Not sharp pains, just noticable (or maybe I'm just hypersensitive now!).

Thanks for all your help, it is really appreciated!


Joshua Comments:

Hey Christine.

Essentially, yes, it is ok.

You are learning how to push the edge. Exercise to a point, not so much to damage, not so much to worry the nervous system, not so much to trigger the body's protective overdrive.

The scenario is like this. You get a mile pain...lots of circulation new blood in waste product and inflammation chemical out, and then you stop, less circulation, production and accumulation of pain enhancing chemical from general inflammation, and then you feel ache.

Pain doesn't -necessarily- mean injury, but it definitely means pain enhancing chemical.

Keep with the icing. Get that cold in there. If I haven't already mentioned it, you could try a frozen water bottle and use it like a rolling pin in an up direction up the shin (but drag it, don't roll it.) More area, and more depth.

Like a deeper massage, with the benefit of cold.

You are on the right track. Reversing how much pain and problem the body feels will then have the body dial down the body's response to that. That is really what 'healing' is in this situation.

The more work you do on it, the faster it will get better. And, it's a balance of work and play and life.

You just keep paying attention to it, and working at it, and you'll get there fast or slow, depending on how you go about it.

It is a little more complex than that, of course, but ultimately, ice and massage and gently push the edge as you do it.

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