Shin splints is a common term referred to the pain an athlete can get on the ‘Shin bone’ (technically, the tibia bone) anywhere between the knee and the ankle. It is stress created on the bone where the muscles that move your leg attach. The injury can often occur after you’ve just got yourself all motivated to start exercising again and you start running with gusto. You get out every day and you enter your local Park Run every weekend. Pretty soon you start getting pain in your shins because you’ve gone too hard too fast. So how do you stop yourself from getting this injury, and what can you do to treat it if you start feeling the pain?
How To Avoid Shin Splints
EASE IN. First of all if you want to get into running, or a sport that involves a lot of running, you need to ease your body into it. Doing lots of sprint training straight up is only going to stress your body. Try to run across different types of terrain to strengthen your legs up – think about what surfaces you usually run on and categorise them between hard and soft. You want to think about what terrain will absorb the impact of your strike and therefore be gentler on your legs.
CROSS TRAIN. A great way to ease into running whilst continuing to exercise is to cross train. On alternate days of the week get out your swimmers or get on a bike so that you are still getting your muscles moving and the blood pumping without the impact on your shin.
CHECK YOUR SOLE. If you haven’t run in awhile and are rummaging around in your garage trying to find those joggers… chances are you probably need some new ones. Make sure the soles of your trainers aren’t worn down and have enough support to cushion your running style. If your feet tend to pronate (or turn inwards) to give you a flat foot, you need to invest in some trainers with arch support. The angle of your foot causes extra strain and stress to be put on your leg which can lead to shin splints with hard workouts. Conversely if your foot supinates (or turns out) you will need to have trainers that are well cushioned to absorb the impact as your foot strikes the ground. Heading to a specialist sports shoe store or a podiatrist can really help you out in this department. They can fit your shoe well and prescribe insoles that will allow shoes to support your foot individually.
STRETCH. It is important to warm up your muscles and stretch them out before you get into your run or work out. Going in cold will only increase your risk of injury. Do a light jog and stretch your calf muscles against a wall or tree. It’s important to stretch your calf with both your knee straight and your knee bent. That way you will stretch the different muscles that attach to the Tibia and allow your feet to bend. Move your ankles around, rolling both ways to get the blood moving and prepped for running.
What to Do If You Start feeling Shin Splints
- P.R.I.C.E. Initially you need to apply first aid to your leg. Protect. Rest. Ice. Compress. Elevate.
- PROTECT. You may need a shin splint sleeve or compression support to keep the muscles warm whilst providing support to the injured tissue. Taping may also help to relieve the tension on the bone as you ease back into being on your feet.
- REST. Avoid running for awhile and opt for low impact sports such as swimming or cycling while you recover.
- MEDICATION. Anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed by your doctor such as ibuprofen or aspirin can assist with your pain.
- SPORTS MASSAGE. Massage can help to reduce tension in the muscles of your lower leg and encourage blood flow to the area that will assist with healing. Remember not to massage the inflamed bone itself as this will only contribute to the inflammation and pain.
- REHAB. If your shin splints are debilitating your ability to run, you will need to seek medical advice and a Physiotherapist can help you rehab you back to running again. You may also benefit from an Exercise Physiologist to give you advice on your gait and running style.
Don’t let injury stop you from moving! It is important to know how to exercise correctly to prevent injury from occurring. If you are keen to get into a certain sport or exercise but aren’t sure how to approach it, come in and chat to any of our Personal Trainers here at AJ’s. We can give you some advice and get you off on the right foot! We also have physiotherapists on site to assist with any injury or massage you may need.
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