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Life in Motion

Shin Splints: How to Avoid this Painful Condition

Health & Prevention

If you are a runner, chances are you have experienced sharp and throbbing pain in the front of your lower leg, which we refer to as shin splints. Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries causing pain in the front and/or middle of your lower leg, and are typically caused by overuse of the lower leg muscles. When your body isn’t given enough time or training to adapt to the stresses of activities like running, the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the tibia can become inflamed and painful.

NEBH athletic trainers recommend these tips to prevent shin splints from occurring:

  • Warm up with dynamic stretching before exercise. Try these warm-ups:
    • Walking hamstring stretch – Place heel on the ground about 4-6 inches in front of the body and straighten knee. Hinge forward at hip until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings for 3-5 second hold. Alternate leg in front and repeat for about 10-15 yards.
    • Walking side lunges – Take a step to the side, shift body weight over as you bend your knee to form a 90 degree angle. As you lean towards your bent knee, straighten out your opposite leg until you feel a stretch in your inner thigh. Hold for 3-5 seconds then stand up and bring both legs together. Take another step with the leading leg for 10-15 yards. Repeat for opposite side.
    • Quad stretching – As you stand on one leg, use opposite hand to grab ankle and pull heel towards glute to feel a stretch in your quad. Hold for 30 seconds, step forward and switch legs for 10-15 yards.
  • Gradually introduce new activities.
  • Make sure your footwear is in proper shape, and replace running shoes when the tread wears out or the heels wear down.
  • If possible, plan your run on a soft surface like grass, dirt, or a synthetic track.

If you do experience shin splints, try these remedies:

  • Use the R.I.C.E. method:
    • Rest: Be sure to let your body rest after high impact activities. Instead, try biking or swimming as light activity.
    • Ice: Freeze half a cup of water (preferably in a small paper cup) over night. Use ice to massage sore muscles along tibia in a circular motion for about 8-10 minutes.
    • Compression: Ace bandages or compression stockings can help ease symptoms and prevent swelling.
    • Elevate: Elevate your leg to help reduce swelling.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or aspirin can help to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Wear properly fitting and supportive shoes. You can go to your local sporting goods store to ask for help with proper shoe fitting.

If you have any type of persistent pain, make sure to see an orthopedic expert.

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