Home: Running Tips Leg pain running

Leg Pain Running problems explained ;)

Click here to subscribe to my mailing list and get 15 free running workouts and more.

"You're about to read about shin splits, compartment syndrome and stress fractures. Common leg pain running problems!"

leg pain runningLower leg pain can mean real trouble in your running. Leg pain running problems are usually caused by 3 main problems (in addition to pure muscular problems), that is: shin splints, compartment syndrome and stress fractures.

These running injuries can occur in any of the major long distance running events, the 5k,10k and marathon..

This is a loooooong article....so feel free to scroll through to find relevant information ; )

Welcome and good luck in staying injury free in your running/marathon training!!

I've already written about hip pain in runners (click to read) and more to come.

At the far bottom of this article, you'll find related site articles...

as well as the choice to go back to the mainpage of marathon training schedule.

Ok, lets go...

Shin Splints, first up among the three running injuires we'll discuss.

Rather than being a diagnosis of a specific injury, "shin splints" is simply a term which implies pain in the front of the leg, over the tibia.

Shin splints can be caused as a result of muscle or bone problems, or even problems with the way the muscles attach to the bone.

The term is imprecise: a catch-all for pain in the front of the leg between the knee and the ankle. Just simply unspecific for a lower leg pain running problem.

It simply describes a collection of symptoms of pain and swelling in this area and in order to be effectively treated, the correct diagnosis needs to be made.

Causes of shint splints as cause of leg pain running

The pain may be caused by any one of a number of medical conditions, two of which - stress fractures and compartment syndrome - we will deal with later in this article.

However, stress, strain or over-use is the most common cause of shin splints, particularly when this over-use aggravates the tendons and the way they are attached to the tibia.

In addition to this ;

And this is a personal experience of mine (seen this in many runners) runners over 20 years old....

The problem is very often muscular ; where the long flexors to the big-toe has been aggrevated and causes a strange sensation/pain that is hard to locate on the front of the leg.

The solution to this muscular "type"?

Deep tissue cross friction massage on the muscle groups close to the tibial bone (the "big bone you feel on front of your leg") - you can feel the muscle go through right on the medial edge of this bone.

This is a complaint commonly experienced by athletes, especially when they increase their training intensity or train for longer than usual.

Marathon runners, who train over long distances as a matter of routine, can commonly experience shin splints.

Certain running movements, such as when the foot is excessively flattened and rolls in to the inside, are more likely to cause shin splints as it over-extends the muscle that lies along the front of the leg.

Therefore, as I have said many time on this page. Chosing the right marathon training/running shoes are essential for success dealing with injuries - including lower leg problems such as shin splits.

Run to a specialist shoe store..

Diagnosis of shin splints - how to find if this is your running problem.

shin splintsThe precise cause of shin splints needs to be diagnosed before treatment can effectively be given.

Medial tibial stress syndrome as shin splingts can sometimes be called by those in the medical profession, usually creates a dull ache in the lower leg and also tenderness to the touch in the specifically affected area.

X-rays or bone scans may be required for a proper diagnosis of the cause of the pain, and it is at this point that stress fractures may be found, perhaps even ones that occurred a while beforehand and have partially healed.

So, how do I treat this injury?

Treatment is usually a matter of ice packs and anti-inflammatory medication.

And like I have said, hard deep tissue massage to the muscles near the medial side of the front tibial bone.

Special footwear may be needed to correct and support your foot if it flattens excessively during exercise.

Low impact exercise such as swimming and cycling can offer good recuperation from shin splints.

Exercise, such as running, which increases the impact on the shins, will be likely to worsen the condition and so should be avoided while you are recovering from shin splints.

Therefore, training for running and marathons should include some low impact training days, to help to lessen the risk of shin splints.

Stress Fracture, next up. Diagnosis, treatment and what is the treatment

Athletes commonly suffer from stress fractures.

These occur at a much lower force of impact than fractures normally occur, but where the impact occurs repetitively over a longer period of time, such as in running, especially if you are running on hard surfaces such as roads.

Any bone can suffer a stress fracture, but these injuries are more likely to occur in the feet or shins, as they support the whole weight of your body in running. This leg pain running problem can be quite serious and can be caused by ;

  • If you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your training, that can make you more susceptible to stress fractures.
  • Poor nutrition
  • and irregular menstruation (even when in the menstruation the female runner is), which decrease bone density and strength, can also be a contributory factor to stress fractures.

How can I "know" I probably have a stress fracture ?

How does a stress fracture usually "feel" on the runner ?

One of the main things is a pain that does not go away, or lessen after warmup.

See, with an inflammation (in the tissue/muscle only), usually what happens is that you get somewhat better after warmup, then worse while pushing hard.

With a stress fracture, the case is usually pain when warmup, pain while running and maybe more pain (more often the same type) while doing the actual work out.

In addition to this, with inflammations you usually have a characteristic "morning stiffness" in the area that does not normally occur with a stress fracture..

So look at morning stiffness as a good sign in terms of injury-seriousness.

Treatment for stress fractures

Is usually rest. If there is a risk of displacing the fracture, crutches may be needed too, or even a cast, to stabilize the fracture.

Ice should be applied to the affected area and you should always ensure that you wear the correct sports shoes and protective gear to avoid the problem of stress fractures in the future.

Compartment Syndrome in runners. Can be a major leg pain running problem.

compartment syndromeMuscles can become too large for the sheath which surrounds it, and this is when compartment syndrome occurs.

This usually occurs in runners on the lower leg, especially when swelling and bleeding has occurred within the compartment which the muscle is sited in, inside the sheath.

Therefore, injuries which cause bleeding and over-use which causes swelling of the muscle are leading causes of compartment syndrome.

Over-training, which causes the muscle to become too large for the sheath, can also cause compartment syndrome as the blood vessels expand and stretch the sheath to capacity.

Eventually, the sheath loses its capacity to expand as the muscle does, increasing the pain.

How does it feel like with compartment syndrome ?

A compartment syndrome usually causes leg pain running problems characterized by ;

  • a sharp pain and weakness.
  • may be swelling and tenderness.
  • If the lower leg us affected, the pain may also be experienced when the toes are bent or the foot moved upwards.
  • Lifting the foot or bending the toes can be difficult when suffering from compartment syndrome.

Also, something I've heard running friends complain about is a tingeling sensation during sleep/rest - sort of small cramps/contractions in the lower leg area.

This may be compartment syndrome if this persists...

Now, then, how can this be treated ?

Is surgery the only option ?

Treatment for compartment syndrome is usually...

  • rest,
  • ice and compression, with ice packs applied with compression bandages in 20 minute stints.
  • anti-inflammatory medication can also help.

As a last resort, surgery may be performed whereby the muscle sheath is cut to allow the muscle to expand.

A sports injury specialist may prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medication than ibuprofen, which can be purchased over the counter.

Diuretics may also be used under a doctor's supervision to reduce the swelling in compartment syndrome.

Long-term, the causes of compartment syndrome need to be discovered.

This may entail you changing your training methods or your running technique. Different types of shoes may have to be worn in order to prevent the recurrence of compartment syndrome.

Sports massage can stretch the muscle sheath too. And be helpful, like in many of the other leg pain running problems.

All these techniques should be tried first, but as a last resort, you can have an operation to cut the muscle sheath and so allow more room for the muscle to expand.

For those of you that got through this article with style.....

Click here to subscribe to my mailing list and get 15 free running workouts and more.

Right below are more articles on marathon training, injuries and running in general :)


marathon training

New : If you want all these principles outlined in a complete plan check out the full 100 day Marathon plan...

FULL marathon training schedules "The 100 Day Marathon Training !"



marathon news

marathon news Enter email address to subscribe for monthly updates and tips. I will not spam your account, only occasional relevant information :)

Related site articles (no linking out):

Back from leg pain running to running tips - Visit the Runing Tips page for more on other type of running injuries and running tips in general.

Back from leg pain running to marathon training schedule