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What Are Shin Splints?

Running's all fun and games until there's shin splints. A general term used to describe lower leg pain, shin splints are mainly caused by excessive stress on, well, the shins. The pain is generally mild, but enough to render a runner couch-side.
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Running's all fun and games until there's shin splints. A general term used to describe lower leg pain, shin splints are mainly caused by excessive stress on, well, the shins. The pain is generally mild, but enough to render a runner couch-side.

Shins And Needles – What It Is

Shin splints can bring that run, skip, and jump to a screeching halt due to a nagging ache or sharp pain caused by additional stress or impact put on the shins. Common causes include exercising on hard surfaces or uneven ground, beginning a fitness program after a long break, increasing intensity or duration too quickly, or even exercising in worn out or poor fitting shoes. The shape of the feet can also be a major culprit if there is over-pronation, an exaggerated inward roll of the foot, or under-pronation, an exaggerated outward roll of the foot, because of the repeated rotational stress on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are attached to the shin [1].

The shins can be a painful reminder of why stumbling upon furniture in the dark is a bad idea, sure, but the type of pain associated with shin splints is a result of fatigue and trauma to the tendons where they attach themselves to the shin bone (also called the tibia). Basically, in an effort to keep the foot, ankle, and lower leg stable, the muscles exert force on the tibia, an added pressure that can result in (a) the tendons being partially torn away from the bone and (b) the protective outer layer of the bone, known as the periosteum, becoming inflamed around the tibia [2].  The super scientific, medical term for shin splints is periostitis with medial tibial stress syndrome. As if experiencing it weren’t stubborn enough, even saying it brings (c) an added element of pain.

Tip-Top Tibia - The Answer

Before any sign of shin soreness, help those lower legs get ready to move with ease by incorporating these preventative measures:

  1. Warm ‘em: Warming up will help to prepare the muscles and tendons for the upcoming activity. Warm up those muscles by walking on the tip toes for 20 yards, then walk on the heels for another 20.
  2. Flex ‘em: Flexible muscles are also important in the prevention of lower leg injuries. When muscles and tendons are flexible, they are able to move and perform without being overstretched. Try standing at arm’s length from a wall, putting palms flat against it while keeping feet and knees straight, and then lean forward as far as possible. Feel the pull in the calf muscle.
  3. Condition ‘em: Strengthening and conditioning the muscles of the lower leg will also help to prevent shin splints. Sit on the edge of a chair and tap the toes on the floor while the heels are planted.

A pair of new shoes might be in order as well, but in the meantime, keep shins strong and healthy by preparing them for the demands of everyday activities and exercise.

Certainty Level

No need to shin and bear it.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Works Cited +

  1. Inverse relationship between the complexity of midfoot kinematics and muscle activation in patients with medial tibial stress syndrome. Rathleff, MS., Samani, A., Olesen, CG., et al. Orthopaedic Surgery Research Unit, Aarhus University Hospital-Aalborg Hospital, Denmark. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2011 Apr 5.
  2. Current developments concerning medial tibial stress syndrome. Craig, DI. Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ. Physician and Sports Medicine 2009 Dec;37(4):39-44.

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