Shin splints are one of the most annoying running and sports injuries that can interfere with your exercise routine. This condition is incredibly common and many tend to consider them an inevitable consequence of an active lifestyle. In reality shin splints really are curable. A few simple steps can treat and prevent shin splints from throwing you off your regular workout regimen.
Shin splints are an inflammatory condition of the shins, on the front of the lower leg called the tibia. The pain is brought on by hard surfaces, poor footwear, too little stretching, or jumping back into strenuous activity after a long break. It’s a common problem in running and stop-start sports like squash, tennis and basketball. Typical shin splints cause pain on either side of the shinbone, or in the muscle itself, and if untreated can become gradually worse until activity is too much to bear. Signs and symptoms related to shin splints may include:
- Pain along the inner part of the lower leg
- Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg
- Moderate swelling in the lower leg
- Feet may feel numb and weak, because swollen muscles irritate the nerves
The main cause of shin splints is too much force on the shin bone and connective tissues that attach the bone to surrounding muscle. The excessive force is usually caused by:
- Running downhill
- Running on a slanted surfaces or uneven terrain
- Exercising in inappropriate shoes, including good shoes than have worn out overtime.
- Taking part in sports that include bursts of speed and sudden stops
- An increase in activity, intensity or exertion, especially if the muscles and tendons struggle to absorb the impact of the shock force when they are tired.
- Exercising too hard too fast too soon after a long period of inactivity. Gradual return to exercise is the KEY!
Females and people with flat feet or rigid arches often have a higher risk of developing shin splints. It’s always best to check with your doctor or podiatrist for your personal specific foot care needs (especially if you are prone to shin splints, Plantar fasciitis, ankle problems, or any other related issues). They will be able to best advise you in a foot care program that is catered to you.
Here are my top tips on how to treat and/or prevent shin splints to care for your legs:
- Wear proper fitting shoes. Choose a shoe that is suited for your foot based on gait, cushion, arch support, fit ,and sport. This will help decrease the risk of shin splints or other injuries. Also, be sure to change your shoes every 3-6 months or every 500 miles. I recommend going to a running specific shoe store, like Fleet Feet, to get your custom fit.
- Run on soft surfaces. Try to find softer surfaces to run on such as a grassy park or a dirt trail. Running on pavement creates extra stress on your legs. Don’t switch back and forth from hard to soft during the same run.
- Increase Intensity GRADUALLY. Follow an exercise program that is catered to you and involves cross training, strength training, and a gradual increase in intensity.
- Ice the affected area: If you have shin splints, apply ice 4-6 times a day for approximately 15 minutes to decrease inflammation of the shins. Be sure to protect the skin by placing a cloth or wrap between the skin and ice.
- Rest. If your shin splints have gotten to a point where they hurt even when you’re not training, then you need to take at least a couple days off, maybe a week or two. Talk to your doctor or podiatrist if the condition continues.
- If it hurts STOP. Don’t exercise longer than your shins can take. Be mindful to how you feel and when you sense pain stop and cool down. Some days this may happen earlier in the workout; other days you’ll last much longer. Eventually your shins will get stronger and you’ll be able to exercise as long as you’d like.
- Warm Up Before Working Out. Lengthen the time of your warm up to make sure your body is ready to go. 5-8 minutes should be enough if you use your time right with quality exercises and good form.
- Cross-train. Avoid high-impact sports and try other activities that don’t irritate your shin splints. I am a huge fan of low-impact workouts like swimming, cycling, and walking. With cross-training, you can maintain your fitness while healing your shin splints.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Many people gain weight and don’t realize that this is why their shins and knees can’t take as much pounding as they used to. Extra body weight creates more impact on the joints. By maintaining a healthy body weight, you’ll have less pressure on your body in your daily life and in activity.
- Physical Therapy Exercise for Your Legs. Perform physical therapy exercises to strengthen your shins, ankles, calves, and feet. Making foot and ankle specific stretching and strengthening a regular part of your weekly regimen will help you treat and prevent shin pain.Here is my shin splint prevention video and foot exercise video to help you care for your legs. Follow these exercises 2-3 times a week to work towards healthy, injury free legs and feet.
And the footwork video:
Follow these guidelines to keep your body healthy, strong, and free from shin pain. Have you ever suffered from shin splints? What is your top tip for taking care of your shins and staying active longterm?
Knowledge is power. Heres to healthy, strong, and active bodies forever!
Have a great week and till next time… keep smiling 🙂
Other Things To Check Out This Week:
- Plantar fasciitis ? Achielles tendonitus? Foot pain? NOT if you have a regular foot and ankle workout program! Take care of your feet and work foot and ankle specific stretching and strengthening into your weekly fitness regimen. Here are my tips and workouts for healthy feet and ankles.
- Healthy Holiday Guide 2012. Nutrition, Fitness, and Stress Management tips for the season!
- Addicted to Twitter? say hi to me HERE.