Help With Shin Splints
What are shin splints?
Shin splints are also known as compartment syndrome, an inflammatory condition relating to a tightness and rigidness of the fascia surrounding the tibialis anterior muscle on the front of the shin. The tibialis anterior muscle is responsible for pulling the foot upwards towards the knee as we walk or run, and as with every other muscle has a 'skin' around it known as the fascia.
This 'skin' is not as flexible as the muscle and takes longer to stretch, which is why certain factors can lead to a build up of pressure as the muscle expands against its 'skin'. The inflammation can compress nerve tissue and blood vessels resulting in symptoms such as shooting pains where the nerve is under pressure.
What causes shin splints?
- Lack of fitness
- Lack of flexibility in the lower leg
- Inadequate footwear
- Too fast an introduction or progression of exercise
- Doing a new type/mode of exercise
What will help alleviate shin splints?
- Correct footwear is essential. Look for good cushioning, a flexible forefoot, lots of room in the toe-box so that toes can spread during the powerful push-off, and a stable and supportive heel.
- Toe taps are a very effective treatment for shin pain - simply put your weight in your heels and tap the front of your foot on the ground in big exaggerated movements. Aim to do this 20 times.
- Flexibility training such as yoga and pilates may enhance your ability to exercise for longer without experiencing shin pain.
- Put ice on your shin(s) as soon as possible after you experience pain to relieve the inflammation. Keep the ice on the area for up to 20mins, or until the area goes numb.
- Stretch calf muscles thoroughly after exercise. Stretching is vital for keeping muscles supple and remaining injury-free.
- Sports massage through the calves and tibialis anterior can help relieve the pressure build-up within the compartment.
- Listen to your body and don't let flare ups frustrate you. Shin pain is your body telling you that your ligament and tendons need more time to adapt. Ensure that your weekly distance/speed does not increase by more than 10% compared to the preceding week.
What activities should I avoid?
Avoid any exercise where you go up on your toes (activating the calves) or lift your toes up towards your knee (activating tibialis anterior muscle). Any exercises that mimic these movements will aggravate your condition.