Stop Spring Shin Splints

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StopSpringShinSplints.jpgIf you’ve ever had shin splints, the name alone can cause a shudder. That aching pressure in the lower legs, as if our shin bones are brittle twigs bent at odd angles, can damage our workout performance and even deter us from running. With spring finally here and running trails opening up, it's a good idea to know how we can prevent shin splints before they stop us.

Many factors can lead to an irritating case of shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). And these influencing factors can combine to increase both the likelihood of the injury and the severity of its symptoms. These factors include:

  • Sharp increases in exercise activity
  • Running on hard or uneven surfaces
  • Using worn out footwear
  • Poor flexibility in the legs
  • Muscle weakness in the legs

So, if you put your workouts on hold this winter, have a fraying pair of 2009 gym shoes, and plan to run on concrete roads and sidewalks without stretching – you’re a prime candidate for shin pain. The good news is that now that we know something about the causes of shinsplints, let’s go over how to prevent the shin-tastrophe before it strikes.

  • Stretch – Not the three-second pseudo stretch from middle school gym class. Do a variety of calf, hamstring and quadriceps stretches, remembering to hold each position for at least 20 seconds, and preferably 30. Even better: focus on getting those wall calf stretches in.
  • Get New Shoes – If you haven’t bought new running shoes in a year or longer, it’s probably time to ante up. If you're not sure of the brand or style of running shoe that works best for you, take a trip to a store that specializes in running shoes, and find the ideal pair in person.
  • Gradually Increase Activity – Regardless of your cardio prowess, don’t bolt out the door and turn into marathon runner just yet. If you haven’t been running much in the past few months, you should gradually increase activity until you reach your desired distance and pace.
  • Search for Surfaces – Concrete isn't kind to the joints. If you can help it, run on an outdoor track, a running trail, grass or gravel. Mix up outdoor workouts with runs on a treadmill that has a good absorption system (like the FlexDeck Shock Absorption System found on Life Fitness treadmills).
  • Build Leg Muscles and Core Muscles – If your legs are strong, they’ll support a large degree of athletic activity without succumbing to MTSS. Build leg strength on selectorized machines like the leg extension, leg curl and leg press. You can also try toe lifts and heel walks at home. Your core should be strengthened because it also takes pressure off your legs, reducing the stress around your shins.

Two other possible causes of shin splints are stress fractures and compartment syndrome. If either is the problem, seek advice from a medical professional. If what you have is MTSS, however, you can follow our advice and spring toward an injury-free running season. Happy running.

Health
Injury
shin splints
LIfe Fitness
 

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