My son is 22 years old. He has been running regularly for the past nine months and also took part in the 50-km-long ultra-marathon at IIT Kanpur in February 2010. However, now his shins have started to hurt whenever he runs. He underwent a bone scan, but no problem was detected. What should he do?
Also, in your column dated May 15, I read about Glucosamine Chondroitin. Can you please give me more information about it? Do help, as my son loves running very much.
I think that your son is suffering from shins splints. This is a common problem that many runners face. The causes can be varied but the symptoms are usually the same. It generally manifests as stiffness, burning, aching or pain in the lower leg. The pain is usually found either in the front part of the shin bone (tibia) right up against the bone or at the inner part of the shin bone where the calf muscle meets the back of the shin bone.
In my experience, footwear plays the single biggest role in causing this problem. If you use poor quality running shoes or your shoes are older than nine months and you average more than 40 km a month in them, then there’s too much shock travelling up your leg each time your foot comes in contact with the ground.
This can irritate the muscles of the lower leg at the point where they attach to the shin bone. The constant repetitive shock can cause swelling and inflammation at this point, leading to the symptoms mentioned above.
A second cause for shin splint is the build up of muscle spasm and stiffness in the muscles of the lower leg. This can lead to a drastic decrease in the muscle’s capacity for endurance. This is the result of a lot of hard training without appropriate recovery. If you run regularly and feel that your calf or shin muscles are getting tighter each time, it’s clear that you need to go to your local physiotherapist or sports masseuse for a deep tissue massage to release the muscle spasm and tension that has built up.
Another important preventative measure is stretching. I can’t stress enough how important it is to stretch your calf muscles at the end of each run. Always remember to spend two minutes stretching them well.
Calf muscles take the most strain when you run. I make it a point to get two deep tissue massages a month to keep these muscles loose. Anybody training for an ultra-marathon should try to get a weekly massage to keep the legs in good shape.
Glucosamine Chondroitin, which you asked about, is a food supplement made up of two components. The first is Glucosamine, which is believed to help maintain healthy articular cartilage. This is the hard connective tissue that covers the surfaces of the bones that make up joints. The second component is Chondroitin, which is believed to help the body maintain fluid within joint capsules and flexibility within the joints.
There is no conclusive evidence to say that it works, but there don’t appear to be many side effects and after having two knee operations to remove torn meniscal tissue in my knee, I have found that it helps me. It is one of the broad spectrum nutritional supplements that I prescribe to my athletes as stress on bones and joints through sport is a major contributing factor to early joint problems.
I hope this information helps. Do consult a doctor or physiotherapist should the pain persists.
Heath Matthews is senior sports physiotherapist at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Sports Medicine Centre