It’s time to hit the road, literally. You start a fitness program by lacing up your shoes and pounding the pavement.
Whether you are training to improve your cardio or gearing up for a local race, you begin to up the mileage. After you throw in some hill work, you begin to notice your lower legs are throbbing. It gets so painful you can’t run another step. This could mean you are suffering from shin splints.
Shin splints, which are also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), refer to pain felt along the inner edge of the tibia. Constant overuse from running or exercise can lead to inflammation of the muscles and tendons that attach to the tibia. The tibialis posterior is the most common muscle that is involved. MTSS is the usual overuse injury of the lower leg. It can often occur at the beginning of a fitness program when the participant is not properly prepared for intense training.
Some factors that can cause shin splints include:
• Having flat feet or pronated arches.
• Wearing improper or worn out footwear.
• Muscular imbalances (e.g. tight calves).
• Exercise is too intense at the beginning of the program.
• Poor body alignment.
The tibialis anterior muscle, which lies more laterally on the tibia, can also become inflamed and painful from overuse. If pain in the lower leg is persistent, a stress fracture of the tibia may be present. This can be ruled out by a bone scan or MRI. An important condition that can mimic shin splints is a compartment syndrome. This can develop from swelling within a leg compartment. Medical care should be sought to measure the pressure. This condition could require surgery if the pressure is too high.
Try these moves if you’ve suffered from shin splints in the past or are starting a new training regime
Wall Shin Raises
Stand and rest with your back to a wall. Place your heels about a foot from the wall. Begin to dorsiflex (bring toes up) both ankles while your heels are on the ground. Lower your feet toward the ground. Keep your toes from touching the ground. Repeat for three sets of 15 reps.
Begin standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with one foot. When your heel hits the ground, stop the foot from fully plantar flexing and the sole from touching the ground. Go back to the starting position and do 15 reps on each leg.
Stretching your calves with this exercise may help alleviate shin splints. Begin by sitting on the floor with your knees straight. Loop an exercise band or towel around the bottom of your foot and gently pull back into dorsiflexion. Hold for 10–15 seconds. Repeat two to three times on each leg.
Shin Resistance Exercise
Sit on the floor and loop an exercise band around the front of your foot, with the other end of the band wrapped around a stationary object. Dorsiflex against the resistance. Do three sets of 15 reps. Increase the resistance by using heavier bands, or increase the reps.
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