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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shin Splints: What They Are And How to Avoid Them

"Shin splints" has become an umbrella term for any pain in the shin area. It is characterised by a dull aching sensation at rest and an area that is often extremely sensitive to the touch. However, not all lower leg pain is actually caused by shin splints. There are also several preventative measures that can be put into practice in order to prevent the discomfort caused by shin splints.

What are the Symptoms of Shin Splints?
Shin splints are actually medial tibial stress syndrome, although these symptoms can be associated with other conditions. There are several characteristic signs that indicate shin splints, including the following:

•pain along the inside of the shin bone
•The affected area is hot to the touch
•a sharp pain when the foot strikes while running
•extreme tenderness to the touch
•swelling along the length of the bone
•bumps along the side of the shin
•pain becoming more pronounced the day after exercise

Preventing Shin Splints
Although there are different treatment options for shin splints, ideally runners and athletes should be looking to prevent the condition before symptoms arise. Shin splints are a product of excess strain on the tibia and connective tissue in the lower leg. There are a few common causes of this. For runners, this is often a result of repeated shocks as the foot strikes the floor. The best way to minimise this is to adopt a more natural running style that limits shock.

Another easy solution is to avoid running downhill at pace. The forces from a downhill impact are considerably more important than running on flat ground. In fact, the best solution to decrease risk here is to do as much running as possible uphill. Using a sensible strategy to increase the distance and speed of runs over time is also essential. Using a progressive program of resistance training to strengthen the lower leg is also a wise investment of an athlete's time.

Treating Shin Splints
Once symptoms of shin splints are present, it is important to act quickly. The longer pain persists, the worse it tends to be and the longer it takes to effectively restore lower leg health. Here are some things to do as soon as possible:

•Rest. It is important to maintain some physical activity. Swimming or other low-impact solutions will maintain conditioning and accelerate the healing process.
•Ice the affected area. This can be somewhat uncomfortable, especially if the shin is very tender. It should be repeated several times throughout the day for 15-20 minutes.
•Take pain relief and anti-inflammatories. This will make day-to-day activities easier.
•Compress and elevate the affected area. This will help reduce swelling.

For some, especially competitive athletes, taking a complete rest from training is impossible. There are a couple of things that can make training with shin splints more bearable. Firstly, taping the shin can reduce pain during training. Secondly, reducing high impact training to the minimum should be a priority.

Sources;, "Shin splints" (Accessed 16th May 2010) (Accessed 16th May 2010)

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