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My shins (specifically the Tibialis Anterior muscle - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tibialis_anterior_2.png) often tighten up while I'm running.

This has happened my whole life when running longer (e.g. more than a mile or so) distances at slower speeds. I was a sprinter years ago in high school (with no problems), but even then if we'd go for longer jog, the outside of my legs below the knee (left leg in particular) would get very tight. Not extremely painful, but uncomfortable - and at its worst, movement of my ankle was impaired.

I started running again (distance only) about a year and half ago, and it kept happening. I did stretch, but that didn't help too much, and I read that I should write out the alphabet with my toes before running. I do that every time I run now, and it definitely helps, but my shin still tightens up, but it really varies (sometimes it's barely noticeable, sometimes much worse).

It's never been bad enough that I have to stop running, but it isn't pleasant and I'm slightly worried that I'm altering my form a little and that it could lead to an injury.

Is there anything else I can do?

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Any other symptoms besides tightness? Any tingling, numbness, leg pain or falling asleep at times, especially with more running activities? –  DrTrungNguyen Apr 15 '13 at 21:58
I had a similar issue when walking (I tend to walk very quickly), but have found that it's much improved now that I'm back at the gym and spending 10 minutes on the rowing machine as a warm-up. The first few sessions weren't comfortable, but after that I saw pretty rapid improvements. It might not work for you (everybody is different after all) but is probably worth trying. –  Anthony Grist Apr 16 '13 at 9:17
@Trungmanator - nothing like you mentioned, but sometimes my arches will feel a little sore while running (again, more on the left). Finally, I had some sort of injury last year, where the bone on the left side of my left foot (the 5th metatarsal I believe) started to hurt after a long run. The doctor couldn't find anything wrong however, and it hasn't returned since I began running again a few months ago. In general he said that if whatever I'm feeling doesn't affect my gait, and it's only "discomfort" and not "pain", then not to worry about it. –  Jer Apr 16 '13 at 14:19
@Jer Have you thought about getting a sports physical therapist looking at your running mechanics and possible shoe wear? I recommend a PT who has lots of experience about treating runners. Also, if not you might want your PT to perform the thorough evaluation to make sure your piriformis and your hamstring muscle on that side are not tight. This is to make sure your nerve and blood supply to the anterior compartment is sufficient. It might be as simple as stretching the correct muscles. –  DrTrungNguyen Apr 16 '13 at 14:47
@Jer You may want to read this article ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835588/pdf/… –  DrTrungNguyen Apr 16 '13 at 19:23

4 Answers 4

They are called shin splits. Recently being called medial tibial stress syndrome. This is indicative of your calves being significantly stronger than your tibialis anterior. Other causes are listed in the aforementioned article. I played soccer competitively and this was my main weakpoint after a 90 minute game; Painful shins after cooldown.

The fix recommended by my trainer was to target the shins with resistance training, such as weighing down the foot and just raising it using only the shin muscle. The targeted training improved the symptoms as did gaining conditioning over the course of each season.

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Unless there are two VERY different kinds of shin splints, then it's definitely not that. I had horrible shin splits when I ran in high school, and those felt like the bone on the inside of my shin was badly bruised (and from what I can tell, that's the tibia). This is on the outside of the tibia, and is distinctly muscular. Thanks for your answer anyway though! –  Jer Apr 16 '13 at 14:16
@ Akin Okegbile It's nice of you to help out, but I think you are not reading his description thoroughly. He complains of the anterior lateral border of his shin, not the posterior medial. –  DrTrungNguyen Apr 16 '13 at 14:39
i am talking about the tibialis anterior.. and shin splints are definitely a muscular pain nothing to do with the tibia. @Jer your tibia hurting is not shin splits. That is your tibia hurting. Read the article trungmanator I agree he is talking about the anterior lateral side of his shin. As I said; I personally have had similar issues and only gave the instructions I were given and did alleviate the symptoms. –  Akin Okegbile Apr 16 '13 at 18:26
@AkinOkegbile You said, "and shin splints are definitely a muscular pain nothing to do with the tibia...your tibia hurting is not shin splits." Actually the tibia is 90% of your shin, so it is the shin splints. That is the reason why they changed the name from shin splints to MTSS (medial tibia stress syndrome), which is actually a stress reaction of the medial border of the tibia. What article are you talking about for me to read? That's not an article, is is just a random answer from the internet without any scientific evidence. –  DrTrungNguyen Apr 16 '13 at 19:16
@AkinOkegbile this is a what a typical scientific journal article looks like ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848339/pdf/… –  DrTrungNguyen Apr 16 '13 at 19:19

Another possibility would be you have chronic compartment syndrome.

Basically the muscle sheathing doesn't expand sufficiently with the muscle. This can range from uncomfortable to very painful and feels pretty much exactly like the muscle is tightening up.

I had a more sever case, but I was never able to find any stretch or warmup exercise that helped much at all. There are only 2 'fixes' I am aware of -- time and surgery.

A specialist can diagnose this by measuring the resting pressure in the leg compartments.

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i wonder if you have weak ankles. there are some excerises that should help with that. http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=115978391&page=1

Also, have you used a foam roller? I swear by this one http://www.amazon.com/Thera-Roll-Textured-Therapy-Foam-Roller/dp/B0083UNS26 it masages out the tension

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Please explain the exercises, in those sites you have mentioned, here by editing your answer. The answer may go to the drain if the link breaks. Appreciate your efforts –  Freakyuser Apr 16 '13 at 4:42

Good morning. I work as an athletic therapist for the US Army currently and was with the USMC for 4 years prior to that in the same capacity. Anterior tibialis pain/tightening is usually caused by tight calves. As your foot dorsiflexes the calf muscles have to allow that motion to occur. If your calf muscles are tight the anterior tibialis and other dorsiflexors have to work much harder to lift your foot and may feel tight, painful, or inflammed during and sometimes following running. Work on stretching your calfs. There are 2 muscles that must be stretched: gastrocnemius and soleus. This is accomplished by stretching with the knee exteneded and the knee flexed. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 90 seconds and as long as 5 minutes per stretch at least 3 times a day. This helped every Marine and Soldier I have worked with with this issue and there were many. Good luck to you.

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