Shin splints can be an extremely frustrating and painful running related injury, but it can be prevented by following the right steps. An athlete who has gone through the injury knows what it feels like to endure the sharp pain on their lower legs. Shin splints can be felt when the posterior or anterior muscles in the lower part of the leg are used. If the injury is chronic, a constant pain may be felt at any time even outside practice.
If a shin splints injury is ignored, the pain gets worse in time and running might need to be stopped altogether. Excessive stress during shin splints can lead to a tibial fracture as well. It is highly advised to make a conscious effort in avoiding shin splints altogether, rather than finding a cure after the damage has already been done.
Physicians indicate that shin splints are more prevalent in beginner level athletes, aggressive exercisers, even women and especially in people who walk or run excessively. Shin splints is essentially an overuse or overloading injury, whether its because of training on hard surfaces like concrete, or because of increased intensity of work outs and sudden changes in exercise routine.
Tips for Preventing Shin Splints
Shin Splints can be avoided by using some simple preventive methods while you work out while also taking care of the injury immediately after the first symptoms. Ignoring the pain will only make it worse in the future. Here are some tips that can help you to prevent shin splints.
Strengthen your body before running
It is important to strengthen your leg, core and pelvic muscles before starting a routine in running. Shin splints generally come from overuse of muscles and tendons. Doing specific strengthening exercises before wearing your body down with running is a great way of avoiding running injuries. Functional strength training (Using multiple muscle groups at once, such as in squatting or kettlebell training) is a great way of making your body work as a one unit and avoid shin splints.
Each step you take creates a certain amount of force into your lower legs. The weaker your muscles are, the more trauma your shins are likely to take. Having stronger muscles reduces the impact on each step and gives you a better chance of staying injury free.
Adjust your running surface
The transition of running from a soft surface to a hard surface should be smooth. The calf muscles need some time to adjust to the newer surfaces. It is suggested that when you start running on hard surfaces slow down a bit in the beginning and gradually increase the intensity of the work out.
For example if you are used to running 5 miles on softer surfaces, run 2 miles on harder surfaces to start with. The tissues in the calf muscles are very soft and easily prone to injury. Exerting them will only cause them to become sore and painful.
Analyze your running technique
Try out a bio-mechanical analysis of your running style. A bio-mechanical analysis is a video technique that captures your running gait. Problems with running mechanics can be easily pointed out using this technique. When you are running it is not easy to realize if you are doing it the right way.
Proper running technique involves having a mid foot strike instead of landing on your heel. Keeping a correct posture and a slight forward lean. Land the foot under your body and allow your body’s elasticity to do the work. A proper stride frequency should be around 180 steps per minute.
Avoid over-straining your body
Over exercising can bring on problems of unwanted nature. Decrease the number of intensive workouts. It will cause your body to break down more than necessary and will lead to a muscle or tendon tear. While running take moderate strides so that it reduces the muscle pull as well. Look out for signs of over training – progress as an athlete requires time for proper recovery.
Doctors observe that shin splints are common in athletes who tend to pronate their foot (pulling it excessively towards the arch). Also on the same note people who have suffered with Achilles heel /tendons before are prone to shin splints.
Wear the correct shoes
The importance of proper footwear cannot be overstated. Wearing in an old or wrong type of running shoes can create injuries very quickly. Every step you take in running creates force and trauma to the lower legs and the number of steps taken on a long run stack up easily. Using the proper type of shoes that fit you not only reduces the impact taken each step, but can improve your running technique and make the run more enjoyable altogether.
Look for orthopedic problems
A person with existing orthopedic problems should be extra careful. Poor foot mechanics and weak muscles tend to contribute to shin splints. In order to prevent it these people will need physiotherapy or wearing custom orthotics.
It is important to follow the exercises that are taught by the physiotherapist. Some people suffer from fallen arches which is a common cause of shin splints. A qualified physiotherapist can fix these bio-mechanical issues in a safe and professional way.
Stretch after running
After the exercise it is important to stretch the calf muscles and allow them to relax. Do not get into a warm shower as soon as you finish training. On any given day if you feel some strain in the shin region immediately apply an ice pack. This will relax the muscle instantly and will avoid further damage.
Remember that there is no easy and quick cure for shin splints. As an athlete you should be aware of such problems and try to prevent it proactively. Shin splints can take several weeks to months to be cured. Stress and mild pain are the first warning signs of this condition and you should take care of it immediately before the the injury gets any worse.