Posted by: Joe English | November 30, 2010

Training — Shin Splint or Stress Fracture?

running-advice-bugOne of my runners sent me an inquiry today that I get all too often. While suffering from pain in her shin, she asks if I think this is a stress fracture or a shin splint. Below was my reply to her, which others may find helpful. I use an analogy below to a pane of glass to help explain how a stress fracture forms and then what happens if with continued running on it. First, her question:

“….I have either a tibial stress fracture or a posterior shin splint… I’m hoping it’s just a shin splint, but my gut is telling me it’s a stress fracture… I have an x-ray scheduled for Friday… Running is unbearable right now. I tried it yesterday after taking a week long break and I felt like I was limping the whole time, so I figured I should stop. Instead, I did 30 minutes of intervals on the elliptical.

I don’t want to take 6-8 weeks off if she tells me that it is indeed a stress fracture. My dr’s a runner too so I think she’d understand my frustration. Is there anything you would suggest to speed recovery? How do I keep up with my current fitness level without running? This is the first time I’ve ever had anything like this…”

Oh, how often I’ve had this question. The first thing that I want everyone to read is that if you are in this situation, please go see your doctor. As I’ll explain below, although stress fractures are much less common than shin splints, they are very serious injuries. If you continue to run on a stress fracture, there is a strong possibility of doing permanent damage and there is no reason to inflict that on yourself. So now that you’ve all read my caution (go see your doctor!), I’ll answer the question.

To continue reading, click here.


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