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What are Shin Splints and how can you avoid them?

Categories: Exercise

What Are Shin Splints And How Can You Treat It?

Shin splints are usually characterized by a nagging pain concentrated on the front of your leg along the tibia during and after exercise. In some cases, the pain can be felt in the soft, outside, muscular section of the shin. The pain can be so bad that you are unable to run or even walk. Shin splints can either be bone or muscular-related. Bone-related is more common that may be caused by stress injury, bone irritation, a fracture or actual break of the bone. The bone actually swells and if left untreated, a stress fracture can occur.

Common causes of shin splints include:

  • Swollen and irritated muscles, often caused by pushing your workouts too hard, too often.
  • Flat-footedness, which makes your foot’s arch collapse during the impact of a step.
  • Poor lumbar spine function.
  • Stress fractures – these are tiny breaks in the lower leg bones.
  • Weakness in your hip and core which are used for stability of the body.

Treatment options

  • Shin splints can usually be treated at home with simple self-care tips such as:
  • Rest – avoid activities that cause pain, discomfort or swelling. Try lower-impact sports such as swimming and cycling to maintain your fitness.
  • Ice packs – Place an ice pack on your shin 6-8 times a day every day for a few weeks, wrapping the ice in a thick towel to protect your skin.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen.

If you have suffered from shin splints in the past or you are looking to prevent it, there are a few exercises you can do. These include:

  • Wall shin raises – Stand against a wall with feet about a foot away from the wall. Curl your toes up to your shin and repeat for 3 sets of 15 reps.
  • Calf stretches – Loop a towel around the bottom of your feet and pull on both sides gently. Repeat 2-3 times on each leg, holding for 10 seconds each.
  • Shin resistance exercise – Sitting on the ground, loop a resistance band around a stationary object you can use for support with the other end around the front of your feet. Dorsiflex your foot against the band, doing 3 sets of 10 reps each.

You can prevent shin splints by:

  • Wearing suitable shoes that limit pronation and possibly have arch supports and shock-absorbent insoles.
  • Increase your uptake of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Keeping to the 10% rule and never increasing your weekly mileage by more than ten percent.
  • Strengthening your hip and core.
  • Decreasing the length of your stride.
  • Always warm up before working out.

If your shin splints are bone-related and none of the above methods helps relieve the pain and swelling, it is time to seek medical help for proper diagnosis. This is because something that can easily be remedied in the beginning can turn into a fracture or break in the bone, causing more permanent effects.