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5 Steps to Stop Shin Splints

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By: Coach Amy Duchene

Every now and then, I’ll see an athlete vigorously rolling out the lower part of their leg- focusing on the front edges of their tibia or shinbone. Pain faced and frustrated this person may not understand why they feel discomfort in their shins throughout the day, the pain eases up during the workout, but comes back immediately worse as they begin to cool down.

If this sounds like you, you may be dealing with shin splints.

Shin splints are a painful condition caused by inflammation and micro-tears in muscle and bone tissue of the lower leg. This pain is typically felt along the edge of the shinbone, and ranges in length from 4-6 inches. If your pain is more specific, such as a spot you can pinpoint and very painful, you may have a stress fracture, which is more serious and requires separate care and recovery than what is mentioned here.

Shin Splints are most commonly caused by:

  • Too much, too soon of high impact movements like running or jumping
  • Worn out shoes
  • Not stretching enough
  • Poor running form

The bad news is, you need to address the problem right away or it is going to get worse. The good news is the treatment for shin splints is simple and if followed, you should feel much better within 2-4 weeks.

How to Treat Shin Splints:

  1. Stop ALL high impact movements for a minimum of 2 weeks. This includes running, box jumps, singles, double-unders, taking the jump out of your burpees, and any other plyometric movements that may come up. We want you to avoid aggravating your lower leg muscles as much as possible. Your coaches are always available to help you modify as needed.
  2. This step will help decrease swelling and pain. Icemay also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your shin for 15 to 20 minutes at least once per day.
  3. Stretch your Calves & Achilles Tendons. Here is where we can apply some mobility procedures. Check out this video by Kelly Starrett, MobRx for Shin Splints  for a step-by-step plan you can follow to loosen up your heel cords, feet and calves.
  4. Consider getting new shoes or an arch support. Many specialty running shoe stores offer machines or someone on site who can help you identify if you are flat-footed or if you have a high arch and find you right insoles to match. Secondly, as much as we all love our Nano’s or Nike Free’s- if you suffer from shin splints you may want to consider a shoe specifically made for running. Saucony, Asics, and Brooks are examples of brands that offer styles with more support.
  5. Gradually reintroduce high impact movements. After two weeks of 100% compliance, if your shins feel better, start to lightly incorporate jumping and running again. In week 3 you may want to try just a little bit of these movements, no more than twice within the week. If your body responds well, continually to gradually increase until normal activity can be resumed.

If shin splints are a reoccurring issue, you may want to also consider the following steps for long-term recovery and prevention:

  • Vary your running surface. Avoid cement, wet grass, and sand as much as possible, instead run on the asphalt, dry grass, or compacted dirt.
  • Increase your running distance slowly. Add mileage little by little. Listen to your body to avoid overuse injury.
  • Incorporate exercises to strengthen your lower leg and prevent injury. Here are a few suggestions from Runner’s World: 4 Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints

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