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Ask the Coach - A Quick Look at Shin Splints

(this and other training tips can be found at http://neoendurance.blogspot.com)

Lucas wrote in this week: How does one sort shin splints- fast? 

Lucas is looking for a quick fix for shin splints. Many athletes complain of "shin splints" which is often a general term for lower leg pain. Since the pain is on the front of the leg, it gets equated with the shin. Lower Extremity Review has this nice detailed article about Exercise Related Leg Pain, as there are several conditions that can cause leg pain which might be referred to as shin splints. Without going into that much detail, to heal shin splits you need to figure out what is really hurting and address that root cause. In general, the most common shin splints, especially in newer athletes, will be muscle or bone related.

If the pain is muscle related, then you first need to
  • Stop the activity causing the pain. 
  • Reduce the inflammation. Ice the area and you might consider anti-inflammatories. Massage will help break up any possible scar tissue or adhesions in the muscles and allow the muscles to heal faster. Addressing the inflammation as soon as there is any hint of pain is probably the fastest way to take care of shin splints.
  • Stretch and strengthen the muscles. If your lower leg muscles are weak and you tend to over-pronate when you run, you are placing additional stress on those muscles. Too much stress put on a muscle and it will protest. And unfortunately, muscles like to protest with pain. So to fix the protesting muscles we need to get them stronger as we let them heal.
If the pain is bone related (a stress fracture) then you'll need to
  • Stop the activity causing the pain.
  • Rest to let the bone heal. There is a high probability you'll end up seeing a doctor to diagnose a stress fracture, so listen to their advice.
The best way to fix shin splints is to prevent them.
  • Warm up before exercise that stresses the lower leg (ie running). 
  • Don't do too much too soon
  • Routinely stretch and strengthen the lower leg (calf, achilles, anterior tibialis)
  • Make sure your feet are properly supported with appropriate shoes if possible
There are tons of online resources for shin splints. Here are a couple of them:

Coach Nicole is the author of The Triathlete's Guide to Race Week. She is also the founder and head coach for NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness, a Colorado-based endurance sport coaching company. She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and also coaches triathlon for Team In Training. Learn more at http://neoendurancesports.com/. You can contact Coach Nicole with your questions for the Ask the Coach column on facebooktwitter or via email at nicole@neoendurancesports.com.

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Comment by Nicole Odell on March 4, 2011 at 8:33am
You're welcome!
Comment by Brian McCarrie on March 4, 2011 at 7:08am
Great post! Thanks so much Nicole!

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