Ways to Prevent Shin Splints

Ways to Prevent Shin Splints

by Crystal (SU)

Painful shin splints occur as a result of stress being placed on the lower part of the leg. The scientific name for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome, referring to stress related injury on the tibia bone. Athletes and persons who exercise regularly may experience the pain of shin splints. Of running related and court-related sports injuries, shin splints are the most common, but they can be prevented.

Preventing Shin Splints in Runners

Runners, especially those who are just starting a regimen, should strive to increase their mileage slowly over time. The goal of every runner is to increase his or her endurance. The more miles run, the more endurance is required. The problem is some runners add mileage to their running routine too quickly. In doing so they might experience pain in their shins. There is a difference between “no pain no gain” and suffering through injury that could become worse. Poor running habits will only encourage shin splints to develop or worsen the effects of shin splints the runner may have already incurred.  Avoid running just on your toes or heels. To avoid shin splints, practice landing on the middle of your foot and then roll forward to the toes.

Preventing Shin Splints in All Athletes

Even though running is all about mileage, court sports, where running usually consists of stop and go sprints, can also bring on shin splits. The reason has mostly to do with the surface on which you run. Hardball roads and basketball courts share a commonality in that they provide little give for your shins and can create a pounding affect. Altering the surfaces on which you run can help eliminate stress injuries that cause shin splints. Of course, changing from a hard to soft running surface may be difficult if you run in the city. Likewise, if you spend your time on the basketball, racquetball or volleyball court, it may be hard to find a surface that is as forgiving as, say grass. However, if it’s possible, train on a dirt trail or in a grassy area. Cycling, water walking or elliptical training is also good to prevent, or help heal, shin splints.

Footwear

One of the most common causes of shin splints has to do with footwear. Cushioning is critical to prevent constant pounding from hurting your shins, but too often, the most cushioned of shoes may be the wrong shoe for your sport, and for your shins! Consider how you pronate and also how you move. Running shoes should not be used for court sports, nor should cross-training shoes be used for marathon training. Don’t wait for your shoes to lose their give before purchasing new ones – by then it may be too late.  Have a doctor or sports specialist analyze how you move to be sure you are purchasing the right shoes. You also may consider getting fitted for orthotics to even out your gait and provide additional support to low-arched feet.

Strengthening Calf Muscles

No matter the sport, shin splints can occur in those who may have weak calf muscles. Anterior tibialis muscles, which run on the front and side of the lower leg, may need strengthening. Exercises that strengthen the muscles will aid against the occurrence of shin splints. Simple exercises like heel and toe raises after a run can help strengthen the crucial muscles.

Athletes don’t have to give up their sports to prevent shin splints, but altering a few common practices may help. Stop and rest legs that are affected by shin splints and don’t begin running again until the pain has subsided. Stretching is important, but overstretching can increase the chance of shin splints. Stretch slowly and carefully before and after you exercise.

If you believe you may be at risk of already have shin splints, seek medical attention immediately before the shin splints become stress fractures. At The Brooks Clinic, our board-certified physicians and medical staff specialize in treating injuries involving body parts with large joints and spine-related conditions. With two convenient locations to serve you, The Brooks Clinic is ready to help you achieve good health.  Request an appointment by calling 405-400-0877.