Shin splint injuries are very common, with over three million cases in the United States per year. Although not a dangerous injury, it can cause some discomfort and deter you from maintaining your regular workout regime. So, what are shin splints exactly? “Shin splints are an overuse injury that causes pain in the lower inside leg (along the tibia),” explains Samantha Schmidt, MPT, PMA-CPT and master instructor for Balanced Body for Comprehensive Pilates and Core Align. Symptoms can present itself with a dull aching pain along the shin and sometimes accompanied with redness or tenderness along the shin. You might also feel pain with activity that eases with rest, another reason why it’s vital to listen to your body. Pain will spike first thing in the morning and with weight-bearing movements.
Below are some reasons why you might be experiencing this pain and ways that you can tweak your lifestyle to heal and avoid getting shin splints in the future.
So, what causes shin splints? Schmidt says that some causes can be linked to weakness in the hips or overpronation (this is when then the arch of the foot rolls inward or downward).
Other causes could include:
- Small tears in the lower leg muscles, potentially brought on by a sudden increase in activity or adding a new activity too quickly. Examples of this include increased running mileage or jumping. Tears can also stem from muscle and flexibility imbalances of the lower leg.
- Having tight calves and weak shins makes it easy for a shin splint injury to occur. Tightness of your calves can be caused by weakness in certain muscles and plantar fasciitis.
- Incorrect footwear is another reason why many people may experience shin splints. Ideally, you should replace your shoes for a new pair every 300-400 miles if you are a runner. If you are not a runner the same rule applies especially when workouts involve high intensity efforts, jumping, sprints, or ballistic motions, explains Mimosa Gordon a certified Pilates instructor, massage therapist, and personal trainer.
How to Avoid Shin Splints
Schmidt shares a great way to prevent shin splints: ensure gradual tissue loading when working out. This allows healthy adaptations of the muscles and fascia (a sheet of connective tissue) of the lower extremities. She urges that training should focus on the lower extremity of the body to achieve full controlled range of motion. It will also help to correct and/or work in optimal alignment for muscle activation and support for loading movements.
Lauren Neinstein, personal trainer and Founder of Legs by Lauren, also suggests investing in a good pair of training sneakers. It is vital to have proper foot and ankle supply to prevent injury. Taking the time to find the right shoe for your activity can make a huge difference, and is the first step toward injury prevention. Different shoes are designed for different training experiences!
Whether you are running or working out, so many people skip the warm up. However, it’s important to not skip the warm up or cool down when working out. These two simple steps are vital for keeping your body in the best shape possible.
Shin splints are a localized pain caused by global body patterns. Gordon says, “It would be most beneficial to stretch the feet and also to stretch the sides of the body.” Stretching the feet helps to release any patterns that are irritating the muscles on either side of the shinbone. The benefits of stretching the sides of the body will release both the hips and the lower back. Ultimately, this will lessen the strain all through the leg and down to the feet.
Schmidt suggests, “Stretching up onto the ball of the foot, raising the heel as high as possible, then rolling the top of the toes over to stretch out the front of the ankle and calf will help keep the toes mobile, the longitudinal arch supple, and the posterior tibialis lengthened.” Follow that by walking on the heels of your feet then on the toes. This will help to strengthen the foot and lower leg. This is extremely ideal for injury prevention.
“For the spine, it’s important to stretch your sides. This releases a lot of mobility through the hips and the back,” shares Gordon.
The next time that you find yourself suffering from shin splints rest assured that there are simple and effective ways to treat this injury. Use these tips to take the proper precautions to prevent this from happening and disrupting your fitness regime.