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Understanding Shin Splints

Shin shin splintsSplints Can Develop Gradually Over Weeks

Shin splints are one of the more common running or jumping injuries.  Otherwise defined medically as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS); it is a painful inflammatory condition on the front, inside part of the tibia (shin bone).  Shin splints can develop gradually over weeks to months or can occur suddenly after a single excessive or intense training session.  Recovery from shin splints is gradual and may require an abstinence from the aggravating activity for several weeks to months.

Signs and Symptoms include pain, dull ache, or tenderness on the front, inside part of the tibia with activity.  For jumpers, the pain can be sudden, while for long distance runners; the pain may be felt during the early stage of a run, fade away temporarily, and then return as the run progresses.  The pain can be there all the time, emerge only during exercise or just after the activity.

With shin splints, the worst thing to do is to “exercise through the pain”. This pain usually indicates bone and/or surrounding tissue trauma and by forcing through it, one can cause greater injury such as micro fractures. Micro fractures tend to require a longer recovery period away from the provoking activity.

Women show a higher risk of complications from shin splints, e.g. micro fractures, especially if they have poor bone density as in osteoporosis.

There Are Several Causes For Shin Splints:

·         Running and repetitive jumping on hard surfaces
·         Activities that involve sudden start and stops such as squash, tennis, basketball
·         Faulty foot mechanics (flat feet or rigid high arches)
·         Unsupportive or poorly fitting footwear
·         Sudden increases in exercise intensity or training

Treating Shin Splints

·         Stop the activity that is causing the pain for at least a week
·        Initially, use ice massage – freeze water in a Styrofoam cup; tear off the top to expose some of the ice, then massage the ice over the painful area in a circular manner for 10-15 minutes, repeat three times over the day
·         After a few days, apply heat instead of ice
·         Wait until the pain is gone before starting back
·         Begin gradually
·         Strengthen the muscles of the front, back and lateral side of the lower legs
·         Wear proper fitting and supportive footwear with shock-absorbing insoles
·         If flat footed, see a foot specialist to determine whether or not you need orthotics

By André Noël Potvin, BCRPA TFL. ACE Certified Personal Trainer, MSc

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