Friday, June 18, 2010

Shin Splints

Nothing brings exercise, particularly running and walking, to a screeching halt quite like shin splints. They're painful, and the pain is typically isolated to the front portion of your lower leg. Rest and relaxation come first and foremost whenever shin splints occur, because really—shin splints are an overuse injury, and one of the most common overuse injuries as well. Untreated and continually aggravated shin splints can turn into stress fractures. And those are never a good thing.

To combat shin splints, you'll need to understand a few things. First, know that your shins absorb most of the impact you create while running and walking. Switching from a sidewalk or grass to the pavement means that your shins need to adjust to an even greater impact, which they might not be ready for. To make sure they are, always stretch your calf muscles before you begin. Additional flexibility in this area helps keep the entire lower leg as strong as possible, which translates to added support as exercise intensity increases. (It goes without saying that calf exercises help, too.) But aside from the flexibility issue, shin splints can also be the direct result of a bad arch. If this is your case, you may want to consider the arch support in your current shoes. It might be time for something new, or at the very least, inserts.

And as I said before, the best way to treat shin splints is by resting and relaxing. However, that doesn't mean you have to be sidelined for weeks. Nine times out of ten, shin splints will go away once you stop the aggravating activity. If not, try some ice and give it a day or two before you run or walk again. In the meantime, you can switch to lower impact activities like biking and swimming. If they remain persistent, you should visit your doctor to rule out stress fractures. Yes, shin splints are a pain—literally and figuratively—but when taken care of correctly, they only curb our efforts momentarily.

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