Mun’s Note: This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman
It was my freshman year in college. I was excited to be on the cross country team as a young freshman. My times were fast enough from my high school years to put me in the top five scorers of my Division III squad; however, there was a problem. I had developed shin splints in the month before our first race, probably due to the high mileage my legs had suffered that first season.
At some point or another, most runners deal with a very painful injury in their lower legs called shin splints. Shin splints is a general term that refers to any sort of pain in the front of the lower leg around the tibia. Since my freshman year has come and gone, I still remember the pain. The causes of the pain can vary from very mild to very severe injuries.
One runner might experience shin splints caused by irritation in the lower leg muscles that originate around the tibia, while another runner might complain of shin splints caused by serious stress fractures in the tibia itself. The pain in both cases is hard to distinguish from one to another; however the stress fractures are obviously much more severe and can lead to career-ending injury. For this reason, it is important that runners be sure to get recurring shin splints checked out by an athletic trainer or physician.
Our college trainer had me get an MRI just to be sure that it was nothing serious; when the results came back, I was cleared of any potential stress fractures. I simply had to get my muscles healthy.
How To Prevent Shin Splints
Shin splints, the trainer at my college explained, are caused by high-impact and repetitive movement. The act of running causes repeated stress on a runner’s legs, and it is this stress that can irritate the lower leg muscles and bone. Runners who wish to minimize that stress should consider following these three preventative measures each season, all of which my coach and the college trainer recommended to me that year:
- It is important that runners choose the right training shoe for them. Running with the right shoe can significantly improve your stride, whether you over-pronate or have flat feet, and this in turn can correct problems before they have a chance to harm your shins.
- Runners should do their best to run on softer surfaces. Pounding away the miles on asphalt and concrete is far more stressful on your legs, no matter what kind of shoe you wear, than if you were to run on grass, dirt, and the synthetic material of indoor and outdoor tracks. Always try to plan your routes to get the most mileage on softer running surfaces.
- Runners should stretch and exercise their shins in order to strengthen and maintain the muscles around the tibia. This is important because those muscle compartments serve to protect and support your tibia, which in turn supports the rest of your legs’ skeletal system. Runners can do repetitive toe lifts, using the heel as the pivot point, when sitting in a chair, for example, or use their toes to pick up and drop a balled up sock. You should feel the muscles around the base of your tibia burn from this exercise. That’s a good thing.
How To Treat Shin Splints
If you do begin to feel sharp pains burning up and down your shins, you should immediately begin treating for shin splints. After your run, ice both shins in an ice bath or with ice packs and take an anti-inflammation drug, such as Ibuprofen, in order to ease the pain and slow the blood running to the injury site. Next you will need to avoid running for a few days in order to give the shins some rest from the impact of your feet striking the ground; consider cross-training, such as swimming or biking, as an aerobic alternative. After several days rest and if you feel pain-free when walking around, you should go for an easy run on a soft surface to test your shins.
If the pain returns, immediately stop running. You could have a serious case of shin splints caused by a stress fracture; you must see a physician.
Mun’s Note: This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who particularly enjoys writing about nursing colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to have your article being featured here, please let me know. Cheers.
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