DEAL­ING WITH SHIN SPLINTS

FIT­NESS SO­LU­TIONS

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ERNIE SCHRAMAYR

You’ve prob­a­bly heard of “shin splints” at some point in your life. You’ve likely even suf­fered from them. I’ve been an ath­lete since the age of 6, so it is some­thing that I’ve worked through nu­mer­ous times. I’d like to pro­vide some in­for­ma­tion about this com­mon con­di­tion that, like back pain, will af­fect a very large part of the pop­u­la­tion at some point in their lives.

“Shin splints” is a catch-all phrase given to the pain that we some­times feel in the lower leg. Usu­ally, this in­volves sore­ness and/ or sharp pain at the front in­side of the shin bone. While the term is quite com­mon, it is not ac­tu­ally an in­jury or a di­ag­no­sis. It is the name given to the painful con­di­tion that in­cludes stress of the tibia (shin bone) and in­flam­ma­tion of the mus­cles and ten­dons in the re­gion. The ac­tual clin­i­cal term for shin splints is Me­dial Tib­ial Stress Syn­drome. A syn­drome is a con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by a set of as­so­ci­ated symp­toms. For this rea­son, shin splints are di­ag­nosed by a physi­cian or phys­io­ther­a­pist per­form­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion and an in­ter­view and may or may not in­clude hav­ing an X-ray done.

As op­posed to a trau­matic in­jury, shin splints come from overuse and de­velop over time for a num­ber of rea­sons. Here are the top 5.

1. One of the most com­mon causes of shin splints can be summed up by the words “too much, too soon.” When an ath­lete or ev­ery­day ex­er­ciser in­creases their train­ing vol­ume be­fore they are phys­i­cally ready for the in­crease, in­jury risk rises rapidly. A good way to avoid this is to con­sider the dif­fer­ent vari­ables in­volved in phys­i­cal train­ing (fre­quency, du­ra­tion and in­ten­sity) and only in­crease one at a time.

2. Worn out shoes. Run­ning in shoes that lack sup­port or sta­bil­ity means that all of the forces from your foot strik­ing the ground re­ver­ber­ate through your feet and into your mus­cles, bones and ten­dons in the legs and hips. A good pair of new shoes will dis­si­pate these forces and can help keep an in­jury from be­com­ing a chronic con­di­tion.

3. Run­ning or walk­ing on hard sur­faces. If the sur­face that you are run­ning or walk­ing on is hard (like con­crete), the ground does not ab­sorb any of the shock of your foot strik­ing; vi­bra­tions travel up through your feet and legs, in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of an overuse in­jury. Look for soft trails and or tracks made specif­i­cally for run­ning and walk­ing.

4. Tight mus­cles. While shin splints most of­ten present them­selves at the front of the lower leg, the mus­cles at the back of the legs (in the calves) are very im­por­tant in pre­vent­ing them. First and fore­most there must be balance be­tween the calves and the mus­cles around the shin (called an­te­rior tib­ialis). If you walk or run con­sis­tently, take some time to stretch your calves fol­low­ing each ses­sion and con­sider adding toe raises to your ex­er­cise reper­toire for strength and mus­cle en­durance.

5. Weak mus­cles. Most of­ten, upon ex­am­i­na­tion, it is found that the an­te­rior tib­ialis mus­cles at the front of the lower leg are con­sid­er­ably weaker than the mus­cles at the back. This cre­ates an im­bal­ance and an un­even dis­tri­bu­tion of the work­load re­quired to run or walk. The load then is “off-loaded” to the ten­dons, which are not equipped to han­dle them and of­ten re­sults in the in­flam­ma­tion and hair­line stress frac­tures as­so­ci­ated with shin splints.

Re­mem­ber that you don’t have to be an ath­lete to suf­fer from a “sports” in­jury like ten­nis el­bow, run­ner’s knee or even shin splints. The body doesn’t know if you are prac­tis­ing for a sport or whether you are walk­ing too much in worn out shoes on hard sur­faces at your job.

Be aware of the things that cause your mus­cles to be­come im­bal­anced lead­ing to stress and in­flam­ma­tion, and do your best to avoid putting your­self in that sit­u­a­tion. In the case of shin splints, an ounce of pre­ven­tion is def­i­nitely worth a pound of cure.

Med­i­cal Ex­er­cise Spe­cial­ist Ernie Schramayr, CPT, helps his clients man­age med­i­cal con­di­tions with ex­er­cise. You can fol­low him at ernies­fit­ness­world.com. 905-741-7532 or ernies­fit­ness­world@gmail.com

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Run­ning on trails, which are much softer than con­crete, will help ab­sorb the vi­bra­tions from your foot strike.

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