Stretches, Prevention, and Tips
Shin splint is a common workout injury that aggravates due to overuse or repeated stress on the lower legs, especially between knee and ankle. It is a general term that many people use to describe pain along the front portion of their legs. The tibia which is the long bone in the front of the lower leg usually becomes swollen and painful. Sometimes an individual may also have a hairline fracture or muscle tear in this condition. Overstressed or weak muscles and connective tissues that run through the front of the legs are the culprits behind the ailment. People experience shin splints in both legs at the same time. The pain often worsens when a person is running or walking, and it persists longer than usual.
Most common causes:
- Most people get shin splints from repeated pounding on hard surfaces during activities such as running, basketball, or tennis.
- Working out harder than usual or training too hard or too fast instead of working up to a training level gradually is the most common cause of shin splints
- Workout shoes that don't have enough support may also be one of the causes for shin splint.
- Running or walking on a different surface than you are used to. For example, a person may get shin splints when they switch from running on a trail to concrete or asphalt.
Most common stretches to relieve pain:
- Foam Rolling: An individual may kneel on the roller, then gently roll two inches down the front of the shin, then again roll one inch up. This may be repeated all the way from the lower knee to the ankle. Total-leg rolling session one to three times per week is usually recommended
- Shin Stretch: An individual may sit on feet with the top of the foot and legs flat against the floor (best done on a mat). Slowly lean back to increase the stretch supporting the upper body with arms.
- Toe Pull Back: A person may sit with legs together, straight out in front of the body. Use a slow controlled motion to pull the toes back towards the torso. If they do this exercise properly, a person may feel the front of the shin tighten.
- Toe Raise: Balance with heels on the edge of a step, then pull the toes upwards and in towards the shins. They might know if they are doing this exercise right when they feel the front of the leg tighten.
- Heel Walking: Balance on the heels barefoot and walk around in circles or a figure eight for a set period of time. Start small with only 15-20 seconds then build up to a minute or more.
Prevention tips for shin splints:
- To avoid getting shin splints, people starting a new activity should progress gradually, should not intensify their exercise too quickly and should thoroughly warm up before doing any sports.
- Wearing proper footwear that can provide enough support to the feet is important, especially for people with flat feet. Shoes should be replaced every 350 to 500 miles.
- Cross-train in sports such as swimming or cycling, which have a lower impact on the shins, to balance out workout.
- Add strength training to workouts to develop the muscles that can prevent shin splints.
- Don’t overdo it. Runners, and athletes in general, have a habit of pushing through pain, but this could just cause more injury and keep them down for longer periods of time.
- Poor foot mechanics and weak muscles tend to contribute to shin splints. In order to prevent it these people will need physiotherapy or wearing custom orthotics.
Treatment for shin splints:
- Shin splints may often be treated with rest.
- Using ice and compressing the area can help relieve the pain.
- Stretching the lower leg muscles may make the shins feel better.
- People with shin splint pain can also take anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to reduce pain
- If self-care measures don’t ease the pain, a doctor may be consulted for fractures and muscle tears.
- Individuals may make a gradual return to usual activity, after pain-free for two weeks; however, reports show that shin splints may take three to six months to heal completely.
- People who repeatedly get shin splints may benefit from rehabilitation, orthotics such as insoles, footpads, or heel inserts that help align and stabilize their foot and ankle.