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Treatment and Prevention of Shin Splints

In this article I’ll be discussing a common runner´s ailment in shin splints that can be extremely painful and counterproductive to your training routine.

The objective of this article is to address what causes shin splints while giving you some tips on treatment and prevention.

We´ll start by discussing some basic anatomy for a better understanding of how the injury occurs.

Your tibia or shin bone is connected to the tibialis anterior muscle which assists in dorsiflexion of the foot. If you pull your foot upwards you can feel this muscle working. This is commonly your source of the pain and inflammation with shin splints.

Your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) work in opposition to the tibialis anterior during the gait cycle. While running on hard surfaces and having worn out shoes can certainly contribute to the shin splints there are often underlying issues with muscular imbalances that you don´t want to overlook.

How shin splints happen in the first place…

When the calf muscles become significantly stronger than the tibialis anterior (which is common) you can develop stress and inflammation at the shins when running. If you get shin splints the first line of treatment is always ice, rest and the use of ibuprofen or some other anti-inflammatory.

The healing process may take a few days up to a few weeks. You´re best advised to trade your running for biking or other cardiovascular exercise at least for a little to help speed up recovery.

Once the inflammation has gone down you can begin performing some corrective exercises. Your main objective is to strengthen the tibialis anterior.

Treatment for shin splints with corrective exercise…

Start by placing a resistance band around your foot while lying down and attach the other end to a fixed object. Pull your foot back towards your body for 15-20 reps completing for 3-4 sets each side.

Next perform some heel walks by raising your toes off the floor while walking for 10-20 yards. Complete this exercise for 3-4 times as well.

Another common factor with shin splints is overpronation at the feet. This is when your foot flattens out causing it to roll inwards. Look for abnormal wear on your running shoes on the inside part of your soles.

This may be a sign that you lack an arch in your feet. If you find this to be a problem consult with a running shoe store that is experienced with corrective solutions.

Many runners will also experience overpronation at their feet due to tightness in their adductors, illiotibial band and hamstrings accompanied with inhibition or lengthening at their glutes. This causes internal rotation all the way down the kinetic chain to your feet.

Strength training to prevent shin splints…

Strength training for the glutes with squats, lunges and step-up´s to name a few should be performed along with static stretching and self myofascial release with a foam roller for the tight muscles.

If you experience shin splints start with rest and recovery then look at underlying issues that may be causing the problem. Don´t simply blame the injury on hard surface running or a lack of support from your running shoes.

Consult with a fitness or sports medicine professional and purchase your shoes from an expert who can examine your gait. With this advice you´ll be back running or enjoying your favorite activity in no time.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fitness expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE trial of his personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Corrective Exercise.