Shin Splints and Prevention

Shin Splints and PreventionHello everyone!  Now that summer time is here and people are running more, shin splints can sneak up on people as an overuse injury.

People who run every day or more than 4-5 times a week are usually more susceptible than folks who run less often.

Also, some athletes that are very active may suffer from shin splints.

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is inflammation of the tissue covering the tibia (shin bone).  It can be very painful for a lot of people.  So today I’m going to go over the subject of shin splints and prevention.

Doing a few small things before you run can help in reducing or avoiding pain after you start.  Below are some prevention measures you can do before running to lessen your chances of getting shin splints.

Prevention

1. Shoes – Make sure your shoes have good tread, arch support, and foot/ankle support.  If they’re lacking in any of these areas you should replace them.  Having proper fitting shoes is also important.  They should fit snug without looseness or tightness in the toe or heel area.

2. Stretching – This is probably the biggest thing you can do to help avoid shin splints.  One stretch that’s easy to do is the sitting shin stretch.  To do this, you sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you.

Then you point both feet and all toes downward toward the floor.  Hold that position for 30 seconds or more.  You should feel a stretch in your shins while doing it.

Another one is called the runner’s stretch.  For a demonstration of this stretch please see the video below by Dr. John Rusin with Water and Sports Physical Therapy.

3. Stabilization – Wrapping your shins up in bandages or training tape can help stabilize them while you run.  Sleeves and compression socks can also be worn to offer more stabilization.

4. Surfaces – Running on concrete or pavement makes you more prone to shin splints.  If possible, try to run on softer surfaces such as grass, dirt, sand, or rubberized tracks.

5. Stride – Don’t overstride, this can cause you to land on your heel first which creates more impact in your leg.  Try to have a natural stride landing more on the balls of your feet.

Below are some ways you can try and alleviate pain or discomfort if you get shin splints.

Treatment

1. Rest – Sounds simple enough, but for some runners and exercise enthusiasts it’s not easy to do.  However, not running for awhile is the only way your body can start the healing process.  Continuing to run could possibly lead to stress fractures.  So listen to your body and make sure you get proper rest.

2. Ice – Ice your shins while resting.  This will help reduce swelling and aid in the healing process.

3. Alternate Exercises – While recovering from shin splints do exercises less impactful to your legs.  Riding a stationary bike or swimming are a couple examples of ways to stay active.

4. Distance – Once you’ve recovered from shin splints and are ready to run again start out gradually.  Shorten the distance from what you did before the shin splints, over time you can slowly add more distance until you’re back at your normal level.

This way your leg muscles, ligaments, and tendons can get stronger as you build yourself up.  Also, avoid running uphill because this puts more strain on your lower body muscles and joints.

Summary – Running or jogging is great exercise, but just like any other exercise you can overdo it.  You know your body better than anyone else, so take heed to any warning signs it gives you.  Like I mentioned before, not taking care of shin splints and trying to run through them could cause stress fractures or even worse.

Also, if the pain or discomfort doesn’t go away after resting awhile, you should seek professional medical help.  The National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF) did a nice article on shin splints and stress fractures you can see here.

If you’ve had any experiences with shin splints you’d like to share please let us know in the comments.  Or, if you have any comments or questions feel free to let me know as well.  Thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!

Jon

 

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