With the holiday season and beach holidays upon us it is worth looking at the injuries people present with in the practice after returning from holidays. One of these is shin splints.
Shin splints present as a dull, aching pain and tenderness in the front of the lower leg adjacent to the shin bone. There can also be mild swelling of the lower leg.
Shin splints can occur from overloading the leg muscles, tendons or shin bone (tibia) and happens from overuse with an increase in training or activity. Often the triggering activity is high impact and repetitive exercise of your lower legs. Walking along a beach can sometimes be the trigger as soft sand makes the leg muscles work much harder.
The muscle that is most often affected is the tibialis anterior which is the muscle that lifts your foot up when walking or running. With overuse, this muscle and its attachment to the bone (on the tibia) becomes inflamed and at times swollen. Damage to the bone usually concentrates in the lower one-third of the tibia. The bone damage may be mild, such as a simple stress reaction, or may be a severe stress fracture
Common causes of shin splints
- Overtraining / Overloading:
- Increasing your training and activity levels too quickly
- Running on hard or angled surfaces
- Insufficient rest between loads
- Poor biomechanics such as:
- Overpronation of your feet (flat – feet) with weak foot arch muscles
- Decreased flexibility at your ankle joint
- Weak gluteal muscle
- Tight calf and hamstrings muscles
- Inappropriate footwear with no arch support
Exercises you can do to prevent shin splints
- If you are increasing your lower leg activity such as walking or running, apply the 10% rule. Have a day of rest between days of increased activity and increase load or volume by no more than 10% each week.
- Wear good supportive footwear that is know more than 12 months old when exercising
- Try these stretches and strengthening exercises to keep you ankle mobile and muscles strong:
1. Calf raises
- Stand with your heels together and toes pointed out. Slowly raise up onto your toes and lower yourself back down.
- Stand with your big toes together and heels far apart. Slowly raise up onto your toes, then lower yourself back down
2. Squat with resistance band
- Stand with your legs shoulder width apart with a resistance band tied just above your knees.
- Ensure there is some tension in the band.
- Drop down into a squat position, pushing your hips back and dropping your chest forwards, whilst resisting the pull of the band by pressing your knees outwards over your toes.
- Control the movement back to the start position and repeat.
3. Calf stretch
- Start in a standing position, hold on to a table or chair for support and place one foot flat on the floor behind you keeping the knee straight.
- Keep the toes pointing forwards and your heel on the floor.
- Bend the knee of the front leg, moving your body forwards, until you feel a stretch in your calf of the back leg.
- Make sure your heel does not come off the floor and your back knee does not bend.
- Hold for 20 -30 seconds
4. Tibialis anterior stretch
- Kneel down with the tops of your feet on the floor and sit back on your heels.
- You may feel a stretch through the front of the shins in this position.
- To increase this stretch, use your hands to lift your knees up off the mat.
- Hold for 20- 30 seconds
Hope this helps, Deb