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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Conrad

Understanding Shin Splints

What are shin splints?

Otherwise known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is an overuse injury thought to be caused by excessive running or training, poor shoes, type of training surface, or biomechanical factors.

Individuals with shin splints complain of pain and tenderness along the medial tibia (front part of shin), usually in the distal one third. Pain is often worse during or after activity - I once had such bad shin splints it crippled my entire leg, yet I proceeded to run because coach was a Nazi.

Where do Shin Splints come from?

Increased plantar flexion range of motion, or differences in ankle joint range of motion, and the use of orthotics have been linked with shin splints. Overpronation has also been linked as a risk factor, as has increased passive inversion and eversion range of motion at the ankle, internal and external rotation at the hip, and lack of muscular endurance in the calf. Women and people with decreased running or activity experience seem to be more at risk for this injury. There is not enough evidence to support intensity, distance, training surface, change in shoes, or age of shoes as risk factors.

How Are They Treated?

In the case of shin splints you want to take a look at your calves and hamstrings. Once you address these, you're most likely to take care of the shin splints. Start with a lacrosse ball or softball and really dig in to your calves. Sometimes the shoes you're wearing might have too high of a heel. Take a look at your running and walking. If you're slamming hard on your heels, that's no bueno.

They often heal on their own. If you see a doctor, they might also take X-rays or bone scans to look for fractures.

Stretch your hamstrings and calves. Usually the root of the problem.

Rest your body. Try non impact activities such as swimming or biking.

Ice your shins to ease pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain is gone.

Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, if you need them. Ibuprofen, or aspirin might help with pain or swelling.

sources: Nasm CES 2017

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