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Shin Splints

July 9, 2009

Often I would feel a stabbing pain on my shins after a vigorous running. Apparently, (as per good old reliable Google) I was suffering from a condition called Shin Splints. I have never heard of this term even when I was still studying Physical Therapy. But upon checking Wikipedia, Shin Splints are also knows as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, and yes, I do remember this from school :).

What are shin splints anyway? How do we treat this condition?

As per Wikipedia:

Shin splints is a general term used to refer to a painful condition in the shins.[1] It is often caused by running or jumping, and may be very slow to heal. A formal medical term for the condition is medial tibial stress syndrome.[2][3]

How do we treat and avoid shin splints?

One treatment that always works for me is RICE. Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. Although compressing is not really needed unless there is swelling involved. I usually rest by avoiding vigorous lower body activities that involves ground impacts. Instead of running, engage in exercises involving less stress to the legs. (eg yoga, swimming)

Prevention is still the best option to take. You prevent conditions like these and other injuries by:

1. Using the correct pair of shoes.

Any runner should have their gait checked BEFORE investing on a good pair of running shoes. I learned this the hard way. I had to endure painful shins and knees, invested in 3 pairs of shoes that were actually not for the kind of gait I have! It was a physically and economically painful experience for me 🙂 Specialty shops such as Secondwind in Teacher’s Village, Runnr is Bonifacio High Street, actually provides this service, even possibly for free (SecondWind does but I am unsure about Runnr).

2. Static Stretches

Stretch your shins as part of your cool down exercise. You can also make this a part of your warm up but make sure that you do not stretch cold muscles as this might be a source of further injury. Walk around 1st to warn up your muscles and ligaments and then do your stretches.

3. Strengthen your shins

Your gastrocnemius (calves), quadriceps and shins have to be strengthened to support your body when you run. To strengthen your shins, you should place “controlled” stress on your shins. Try walking on your heels and downhill running. I used to do this when I was training to be a mountaineer.

4. Avoid overstriding and heel impacts

I notice that whenever I try to sprint (usually to beat Not to the finish line), which causes me to overstride and shift from midfoot-strike running to heel-strike running, I experience really painful shin splints. Some say that due to my running style which is basically midfoot to forefoot-strikes, I experience more injuries. Another school of thought says that using the heel on impact actually promotes more injuries. But based on personal experience, I have more problems with my shin whenever I use my heel on ground impact.

These tips are not fool-proof. But I do hope that it will help others who are experiencing this nasty condition 🙂 Happy running!

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