Shin splints is a generic term for pain felt on the inside and back of the shin bone. The pain normally gets worse during running, although can fade during activity, returning after cessation.
So what’s the source of this pain? The bone is surrounded by a membrane called the periosteum, this is where the soft tissue of the calf joins to the bone. In certain cases this membrane is pulled away from the bone and becomes irritated causing pain, this is known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.
Causes are normally a combination of: rapid increase in amount of running, running on hard or uneven surfaces, poor footwear, tight hamstrings/calves, poor technique and being overweight.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer from this the first thing to do is stop running. This will greatly reduce the tugging on the periosteum and therefore reduce the irritation and pain. In the early stages, ice can be applied to the area to reduce the pain, 10 minutes in the hour. In order to maintain your cardiovascular levels chose another activity which doesn’t have the same impact, e.g. swimming or cycling. Once the pain has gone it is time to gradually return to running but take your time, too soon or too much will only set back the healing process. Take a look at the other factors which may cause this condition, such as running surface, footwear, technique or are you overweight? Don’t forget to maintain your flexibility.
If the pain continues or gets worse even after stopping running then see your GP as other causes of pain in this area are Compartment Syndrome and Stress Fracture. Both of these will probably require an x-ray or scan and can be serious enough to require surgery.
If you take into account the above you should be able to safely return to running.