Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Are Shin Splints? How to Prevent Them?

Medial Tibial Traction Periostitis, or Shin splint as it is commonly referred to, is a painful condition at the front of the lower leg. It usually occurs along the inside edge of the Tibia, which is the larger and the stronger of the two leg bones. The sheath surrounding the bone, the periosteum, gets inflamed. This causes the pain.


This condition occurs frequently in long distance runners. The continuous use of the leg muscles causes fatigue in the muscles. As a result, the muscles can’t take the strain properly and this gets transferred to the tibia. As a result, the tibia develops microscopic cracks. However due to the continuous usage the cracks don’t get time to repair themselves,. This causes an inflammation. This is one of the causes of shin splints. Other reasons such as sudden increase in the load due to excessive training can also cause this. Running on hard surfaces such as concrete can also cause shin splints. Hard surfaces don’t absorb any of the impact of the pounding of the feet and this gets transferred to the muscles and consequently the bones.


Pain in the inside lower half of the shin is the characteristic symptom of a shin splint. This is usually present at the beginning of the exercise session but reduces as the session progresses. It however reappears after the activity and may progressively get worse. In some cases, a slight swelling may also be visible. In the initial stages, the pain is bearable but as the condition progresses it can cause extreme discomfort and can prevent any activity.


A few preventive measures can help you avoid a shin splint.

1. Avoid overtraining. Overtraining causes your muscles to get fatigued and fatigued muscles cause splints. Proper rests in between training is absolutely essential to provide sufficient recovery time for the muscles. You must alternate between rest and training phases, to ensure this.

2. Avoid increasing your running distance or running time quickly. Your muscles are not strong enough to take huge leaps in loads. Increase your distance or time steadily, not more than 10% a week.

3. Strengthening your muscles is very important. Walking and running involves a set of muscles. If any of these muscles is weak, it causes unnecessary strain on the other muscles and may eventually cause splint. You must have a proper training regime to prevent this.

4. A good warm-up and stretching is essential. A warm-up prevents muscle-injury and thus enables them to take loads without giving away. Stretching strengthens the shin muscles. Stretching exercises such as toe-raises help in strengthening the shin muscles.

5. Proper footwear provides good support to your muscles and prevents their jarring while running. This helps preventing splints. Also the running surface plays an important role. A very hard surface doesn’t absorb the impact of the pounding and this is transferred to the body. A very soft surface such as sand needs a lot of energy for pushing off and causes muscle fatigue. The surface should be appropriate.

A proper training regime keeping all the above aspects in mind will go a long way in preventing shin splints.

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