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Have you ever been running and noticed pain in your lower leg along your shinbone? Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) is a common problem among runners and athletes. This condition can be extremely difficult to get under control if you’re not sure how to treat it. The most successful way to get rid of shin splints is to figure out what is causing the problem. Here are 5 easy tips that can help get you back on the road to recovery.
Tip 1: Replacing old shoes is essential; go to your favorite running store and ask about getting the correct shoes for your feet. Running shoes should be changed about every 500 miles as a general rule, as research suggests shoes begin to breaking down around that distance. *For a specific calculation to when you need to change your shoes divide 75000/Body Weight. This equals your shoe mileage!
Tip 2: Initially training should progress gradually and not too fast. Muscles need to rest and overtraining is a common cause for shin pain. Avoid doing too many hills when you initially start training; the body is not used to the extra stress that is put on your knees and legs. There is nothing wrong with running hills but start gradually, this will help your body ease into the stress. If you experience a little soreness, use ice AFTER activity on your shins to help control the pain. An excellent way use ice is to make an ice massage. Put paper cups with water in the freezer. After they are completely solid, peel them off at the top and apply it up and down your shins for about 10 min with gentle pressure.
Tip 3: Do you have flat feet or high arches? Your foot may be causing your shin pain but there is good news it can be corrected. There are basically three different types of running shoes, cushion, neutral and motion control shoes. Here is a quick assessment: standing barefoot with your shoes off wet the bottom of your feet and walk on a hardwood or solid surface. If your feet are flat, the print will show your toes, middle of your foot and your heel on floor. If your foot print appears to be partially touching, just toes and heals of your feet, then you might have a high arch or a neutral foot. Why is this important? When abnormal biomechanics occur it causes the body to compensate in various directions. It can cause many overuse injuries in the knee, hip, shin and foot. Buying the correct shoes should be the first place to start from the most reputable store. They should be able to evaluate your feet appropriately by telling you if you have a flat neutral or high arch. This will be essential information to know before you purchase those new kicks. In addition, many running stores have over the counter orthotics they can recommend you to place in your shoes to help give you the proper support if needed.
Tip 4: Exercises to help the problem (all of these exercises are fairly simple to do and can be done just about anywhere):
· Resisted dorsiflexion – using an elastic band, start in a seated position and place the band around the top of your foot and secure the other end. Flex your foot towards you, keeping your knee straight. Do 2 sets of 20 reps, 3-5 times per week.
· Calf Raises – stand with your feet slightly apart and push-up on your toes, then slowly return back down to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 20 reps, 3-5 times per week.
· Calf Stretch (Gastrocnemius) – Put one foot in front of the other, with your front knee bent, lean into a wall, stretching your back leg (keep back knee straight) and hold for 30 seconds, repeat with other leg. Complete daily, multiple times throughout the day.
· Calf Stretch (Soleus) - Put one foot in front of the other, with your front knee bent, lean into a wall, stretching your back leg (bend back knee slightly) and hold for 30 seconds, repeat with other leg. Complete daily, multiple times throughout the day.
· Foam Roller – roll your calf daily with medium to light pressure, for 2-3 minutes, 1-2 times per day.
Tip 5: If you are not improving, head to your sports medicine specialist for further evaluation. Sometimes lingering leg pain maybe related to a stress fracture or other injuries, and additional testing maybe necessary. As a general rule, if your pain lasts for longer than 2 weeks and/or if you have tried to fix the problem by addressing your shoes, adding orthotics and completing a home rehab program, but the pain continues, then you need to take further action and go to the doctor.
Figuring out the problem is the first step, but we also want to fix the problem and not just treat symptoms. Hopefully these tips will get you back on the road to a full recovery.