Shin Splints -- Tips on Prevention and Treatment

Posted on: 18 July 2016

If you engage in a lot of exercise activities, you may have found yourself suffering from shin splints, also known medically as MTSS (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome). It is common in runners and footballers, but can also be an issue for anybody engaging in prolonged, excessive activities that place a strain on the lower area of the legs. The condition is typically characterised by pain that runs along the inner shin area. The cause of the pain is usually calf muscles that are tired or inflexible, placing stress on the connective tissues that hold the muscles to the bone. This pressure can cause tears and strain. Read on for tips on prevention and treatment of shin splints.

Before You Exercise

If you engage in a regular sporting activity, you're likely to know that you should warm up and stretch before you start. If you have a regular stretching sequence you go through, make sure it includes the following stretches to help prevent shin splints.

Stretch your calves by standing with your heels placed together and your toes pointed out, creating a V shape with your feet. Raise yourself onto your toes and lower yourself back down in a slow controlled motion. When you have done ten repetitions, invert the V with your toes together and your heels apart and repeat the stretch ten times.

Consider How Your Foot Hits the Ground

If you're not already doing so, think about how your foot hits the ground. A correct gait can help prevent injury and shin pain. Heels hitting first can result in overstriding, causing the shin muscles to over stretch and work harder than they need to. Toes hitting first can put extra stress on the calf muscles in the back of the leg. You should aim to have your mid-foot hit the floor first. It's worth speaking to a coach to help you get your technique right. It may cost a little for your consultation, but could save you money on costly treatments and time spent recovering.

Following Injury

Recovering from shin splints can take weeks or even months. You should stop running and excessive activities to give the inflamed tissue time to heal. If you're on a training programme, you can continue exercising with low-impact activities like pool running, swimming or using stationary exercise machines like elliptical striders and exercise bikes. Regular icing of the area and anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the swelling.

If, after trying these tips, you're still suffering from pain, you should consult a physiotherapist who will conduct a thorough physio examination to establish whether or not the pain you're suffering from is caused by MTSS. They will be able to set out a course of treatment to hasten your recovery and can show you massage and stretch techniques that may ease your pain. They can also provide guidance on how to prevent injury recurrence.