Preventing shin splints

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October 27, 2015

Norris R, has noticed his 14-year-old son often complains of pain in his lower legs while running or playing football. His doctor says this is due to shin splints. Norris asks what he can do to prevent the pain.

"Shin Splints" refers to pain along the shin bones (The tibia) which is the large bone in the front of the lower leg. Shin splints occur quite commonly in runners, dancers, basketball players and even new trainee army recruits! The pain felt with shin splints is due to inflammation of muscles, tendons and bone tissue in the shin area. Known medically as "medial tibial stress syndrome", shin splints often occur in athletes who have recently intensified or changed their training routines and this is because the muscles, tendons and bones are being overworked causing them to undergo repeated stress! When this happens the person will experience tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner part of the lower leg. There might also be some slight swelling. The pain may stop when the activity has ended but eventually may even become continuous.

Most cases of shin splints can be treated with rest, icing the area, taking over the counter pain relievers and wearing proper footwear. Of course, the exercise schedule also has to be modified.

Persons are more at risk of shin splints if they:

• Have flat feet or rigid or high foot arches

• Work out on hard surfaces

• Do not wear appropriated shoes

• Wear worn out shoes

• Are just beginning a running program

To treat shin splints:

• Keep activity to just the walking done in a regular day (excluding exercise)

• Try other low impact activities such as swimming or biking

• After 2-4 weeks pain free, usual sporting or training activities can be resumed at a lower level of activity. Do stretching exercises , increase the activity level slowly and stop exercising at once if pain returns

• Cross-train and add lower impact exercises such as swimming

• Shin splints can take 3-6 months to fully heal so return to activities only slowly or risk full relapse

• Use arch supports if flat footed

• Work with a physical therapist if pain is prolonged

Lifeline hopes Mr. R and son find this information useful!

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