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Ask an Expert: How to Heal and Prevent Shin Splints

I’m new to running and experiencing painful shin splints. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? – Kelly Shin Splints are a common condition for runners and walkers. The symptoms can include both a muscle tightness in the area around the shin that subsides post workout, or pain along the tibia bone both during and after activity. The pain is often attributed to the swelling of the bone or muscle and if not dealt with, can lead to a stress fracture. Shin splints can arise from a host of variables including running too much or too fast too soon, footwear, your foot type (flat feet, high arch), and bone density. How to Heal It: Seek medical advice. If you’ve been experiencing consistent pain before, during and after your runs, it is wise to seek medical advice for a proper diagnosis as stress injuries can turn to fractures and the quickest way to recovery is knowing what you’re dealing with. Perform active rest. Take a break from running and walking and exercise with low to non-impact activities that don’t aggravate your shin pain like the elliptical machine, cycling, swimming, rowing, and yoga. Commit to a week of short, easy effort activity for 30 minutes to allow the shin pain to heal and diminish. Schedule a massage. Muscle tension and tightness in the fascia can be a likely cause of shin pain. Getting a massage can help in releasing the muscle tension and improve circulation and healing the area. You can also perform muscle release with a foam roller or stick and mimick the motion of a massage therapist.
  Check your shoes. It is wise to get properly fitted at a running specialty store near you. The staff should measure your feet and evaluate the shape both seated and standing. That will help them determine the best type of shoe and support you need. In many cases, this may mean adding a little more arch support to reduce the amount of rotation in your foot as you run. Getting fitted with the proper shoes for you can make all the difference in running injury free. How to Prevent It: Progress gradually. The number one cause of running related shin pain is running too much or too fast too soon. It’s best to start from where you are fitness wise and gradually progress. If you are starting from the couch, begin with a walking program every other day for 30 minutes and build up to an hour. Then sprinkle in seconds or minutes of running with walking intervals to allow your body to adapt to the demands of the higher impact forces in running. If you are running already, avoid jumping up in mileage or intensity by increasing no more than 10 minutes or 1 mile for your longer runs per week and adding higher intensity runs like a spice to your program (once per week at first). For instance, if you’re running 3-4 miles three times per week, increase the 3-4 miles twice and 5 miles once in a week and hold it there for a two weeks before you add more mileage. Strengthen your core. Sometimes shin pain can be more related to muscle imbalances in our core and lower body. Include total body strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week and include exercises like plank, lunges, and bridge. Get Flexible. Using a foam roller or stick and including total body stretching exercises is an effective way to maintain a healthy range of motion in the muscles and joints and prevent aches and pains from developing due to imbalances. This is especially true for runners as the wear pattern (right, left, right, left) is repetitive and one linear. Meaning, we use the same muscles and neglect others. Cross-Train. Mix up your routine with other activities that move your body in a variety of motions like yoga and strength classes, and in a lower impact mode like the elliptical machine and indoor cycling. Doing so will improve overall health and well being, reduce your risk for overuse injuries and keep your program fresh and fun! If you run three times per week, you can add cross-training on the days in between to allow more recovery post run. Happy Trails. Coach Jenny Hadfield Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.