Shin Splints and How to Prevent Them | Revere Health

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), can be a painful condition in the legs. While this condition can be caused by various activities, a high percentage of shin splints are related to running injuries for runners who put in long distances and/or frequent running sessions. The condition is usually characterized as pain down the length of your shin bone. Here are some basics on the causes of shin splint development, plus some training strategies to help avoid them.

Shin Splint Causes and Risk Factors

There is no specific cause of shin splints, but medical professionals do have an idea of some of the most common things that can lead to them, including:

  • Periosteum swelling, or swelling in the area that surrounds the shin bone
  • Tenderness in the surrounding musculature or tendons in the shin, including the soleus, tibialis posterior, and tibialis anterior
  • Reactions to repetitive stress or high weight loads, which cause the tibia to bend or be strained in new ways
  • Traction on the periosteum due to an imbalance of lower leg muscles
  • Decreased bone density

In addition, there are several risk factors that have been linked with shin splints:

  • Having flat feet
  • Being female
  • Having a high body mass index (BMI)
  • Being new to running or changing to a new running surface
  • Past history of shin splints

Now let’s look at a few strategy areas to help avoid shin splints when possible.

Proper Footwear

Proper foot support can go a long way toward preventing shin splints and other common running injuries. Your feet need support for their arches, plus cushioning and durable materials that can stand up to repeated wear and tear. Older or less supportive shoes may provide less support, leading to higher injury risk.

Certain types of shoes may also come with less arch support or lead to poor running form. If you struggle to find the proper support with your shoe alone, consider custom orthotics or other insoles that might help – a foot specialist or an orthopedic doctor may be able to help.

Stretching

Stretching certain muscles and areas can help prevent the onset of shin splints:

  • Gastrocnemius (one of two muscles that makes up the calf): stretch the gastrocnemius a few times per day by leaning against a wall in a lunge stance with the heel of your back leg on the ground. Lean into the wall with your back knee straight.
  • Soleus (the other muscle in the calf): use the same lunge position as above, but with the back leg bent and leaning forward.
  • Tibialis posterior (a muscle that can often be overworked when your feet lack arch support): stretch by sitting in a four-figure position with your ankle resting on your opposite knee. Grab the inside of your heel and push it toward the floor, while simultaneously grabbing the top of your foot with the other hand and pushing this to the floor as well. You’ll feel this one along the inside of your shin.

Dynamic Warmup Exercises

In addition to stretching, doing what are called dynamic warmup programs can help decrease injury rates in several areas, including shin splints. One such program is called the FIFA 11+, which has shown to decrease injury rates in many cases. This program includes stabilizing the core, moving the thighs, proprioceptive exercises, and alignment and stabilization areas. It requires very little equipment beyond a soccer ball, with simple movements.

Other Areas

A few other areas to consider when it comes to keeping shin splints at bay:

  • Get proper rest time between training and exercise
  • Do not overtrain
  • Train on the right surfaces

Your doctor can offer further recommendations for avoiding or treating shin splints.

I treat people of all ages in my practice—kids, athletes, adults and retirees––and enjoy being able to understand people’s unique situations in order to help them recover.

Source:

“Shin Splints and How to Prevent Them.” Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster, LTD. https://www.fixbones.com/Blog/TabId/13643/PostId/5396/shin-splints-and-how-to-prevent-them.aspx

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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