I Hate Shin Splints

The rains are getting lighter, the sun is getting brighter. You may find yourself outside more these days, stretching out the legs and running like the wind in order to meet your fitness or fat loss goals (especially if you are at bootcamp).

But there’s one thing that will quickly derail your efforts – that painful, burning sensation in the shins known as medial tibial stress syndrome aka Shin Splints. They’re a huge nuisance and I’ve seen many a folk succumb to them and you are all the inspiration for this blog. I hate to see your efforts go from run into jog into walk, not because you’re winded – I applaud you for pushing yourself hard enough to be winded, but because the pain in your shins is so great that you have to stop. So that’s why we’re here today… My attempt that you will read this blog and hammer home how to get rid of shin splints…. And how you can do it even while lying down while on your computer while watching tv. I love multi-tasking!

keep leg straight and raise left toes to computer and repeat...for 5 minutes or as long as you can

You are more prone to experience shin splints if you were previously inactive, and have a few extra pounds on your frame. Shin splints is a common beginner ailment but it can affect seasoned runners and anyone overtraining. Think…overtraining to newbies would typically be any onset of running because your body is not used to the stimulus. Bluntly stated, if you have not been active much in your life and start running there is a high chance you will get shin splints because your body is just not used to running.

Where do you go? The surface you are running on will have an effect. Running on uneven grass or hard surfaces such as parking lots will flair those shins. If you are wearing worn out shoes, you are only compounding the problem.

Now let’s get to some anatomy. You are experiencing shin splints because of muscle imbalances. Now I spend a lot of time in gyms and I always hear people telling me something they can’t do because of old age. Bullshit! You can’t do this because your body is used to moving a certain way and that is why you get these pains and sore muscles. You’ve created faulty motor patterns from doing something a certain way your entire life and that is why you ache. If you’re not used to running then these imbalances will quickly be revealed. Correct muscle imbalances and the fountain of youth awaits you! You have to be commited to it, you may want to quit, but it’s worth it! I just spent 2 years correcting muscle imbalances in my shoulder and it feels great to be able to let the weights fly again. Im in my 20’s but I got to tell you 30 is the new 20 and so on.

I got sidetracked…

You get shin splints because the muscles in your shin such as the anterior tibialis are not strong enough to absorb the impact of the ground when you run, so you’re effectively just slamming your foot down and creating this stress in the shin. Couple this with strong calf muscles and you’ve got opposing muscle groups with an imbalance which is always a risk for injury.

Here’s how you strengthen the anterior tibialis (muscle in the shin)
Toe raises or toe taps (you can do these while lying on the couch, sitting in a chair, or standing up)
Your foot is flat on the ground, bring your toes up as high as you can (in the direction of the shin) and repeat. Try to do this for 5 minutes or to fatigue. You can do one foot at a time or double it up! A week of doing toe raises and you will be well on your way to saying goodbye to shin splints!

Strong calf typically means tight calf
When muscles contract they shorten, running causes constant contraction of the calf muscles so if you are not stretching them, it is likely you have a chronically tight calf muscle. If you are stretching them and they constantly feel tight, you’re not stretching them enough! I don’t have to go into detail about how to stretch the calf here, but I will tell you the longer the stretch the better (minimum 30 secs).

Soft Tissue Work
Apply a lacrosse ball, rolling pin, foam roller, or “the stick” over the inflamed area, find the knots and the spots and work on them for 15-30 seconds. The more you do this, the easier it is, the less pain you will subsequently have. This technique is also known as self myo-fascial release.

Ease up on running for a week or toe. Ice the area (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off) and remember overtraining was one of the contributing factors. So modify your workouts and you’ll be on your way  (and at a nice pace I might add) in no time.

Good running,
Josh Saunders, BSc, CSCS
The Bootcamp Effect