How Runners Can Prevent Shin Splints

How Runners Can Prevent Shin Splints

Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common but usually preventable muscle ache. Often affecting runners, shin splints can happen to any person who engages in sudden, strenuous physical activity that their body isn’t prepared for, sometimes because they didn’t warm up properly. So, if you’ve begun increasing the length you run or transitioned from jogging on a treadmill to running up a hilly incline, make sure you are prepared for the increased strain on your muscles. Shin splints can affect those who play sports involving running, too, like basketball, tennis, or soccer. Active military members and dancers can get shin splints as well. That’s because the repetitive stress of running aggravates the muscles on the front part of the lower legs, coupled with the fact that runners often have chronically tight calves.

Fortunately, the right stretches can help prevent shin splints or ease the symptoms. Usually, shin splints go away on their own, but you can seek treatment from a physical therapist if they are very painful or if they are keeping you from training. You should not try to “put mind over matter” and run through the pain if you have shin splints. In fact, physical therapists recommend you stop running until the pain subsides, and then ease back into training by starting off at a lower intensity. Examples of lower-intensity activities include swimming or using the elliptical machine.

These tips will help you avoid getting shin splints:

  • Stretch: By warming up your calf muscles properly, you can maintain flexibility and stay loose so you avoid shin splints. Runner’s calf stretch against a wall is a great stretch to do before you run. You can do this stretch by extending one leg behind you with both feet flat on the floor and your rear knee facing straight. Lean toward the wall until your calf muscle feels tension and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Wear the right shoes: Foot mechanics can predispose you to shin splints, so it’s important to replace your shoes and be fitted professionally about every 300 miles of running.
  • Run on softer surfaces: If you run daily on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt, you increase the impact and force transferred through your legs.
  • Pay attention to aches and pains: If your shins start to hurt while you run, stop, and massage the shins for 5-10 minutes to help with inflammation.

Interested in physical therapy for a sports injury? Contact ProFysio at (732) 812-5200 to schedule your free consultation.