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A Runners Nightmare 

Top Tips in the prevention and treatment of Shin Splints

Injury is a problem that all athletes have to face at some time in their career. Runners, both professional and recreational, seem prone to many different injuries and it’s no wonder since a runner’s feet strike the ground at a force of between three to five times their body weight. Shin Splints are one of a number of these injuries.

What is it?

It is defined as an inflammation of the muscle attachments and shin bone on the inside of the front lower leg.

What causes it?

There are numerous causes but here are a few of the main ones:

  • Inflexible or tight calf muscles and Achilles tendon
  • Excessive running on hard surfaces such as concrete
  • Incorrect or worn running shoes
  • Overtraining

Tips for prevention and treatment

Correct Running Shoe; before you start your training programme you should invest in a good pair of runners. If you make the mistake of buying ‘cheap’ trainers you are setting yourself up for injuries like shin splints. Make sure you change your shoes when they begin to wear and lose their support.

Beginners; if you are only starting out running, avoid any difficult terrain runs. You should aim for around a year running or until you have built up to around 20 miles a week before you start doing speed intervals or hills training. This doesn’t mean no hills at all (we don’t live in Holland!). Try to plan your routes to avoid a lot of downhills. The impact on your shin while running down hill can be a major factor in shin splints.

Intensity; while training there is always a risk of overtraining thus increasing your risk of injury. Be careful when increasing your intensity level or distances. A general rule is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% weekly

Rest; try incorporating a gym programme along with your running. On your rest days from running you can be working in the gym on strength and flexibility. Lunges and squats are great leg strengtheners.

Choose your surface; the harder the surface, the higher the risk of shin splints. Concrete is the hardest, try not to be continuously running on concrete and tarmac. Uneven roads and fields, loose stones etc. can put a lot of stress on ankles, shins and calf muscles so avoid these if possible.

Warm Up/ Cool Down; the importance of a warm up and cool down can never be over emphasised. These help in flexibility and injury prevention. Adapt your cool down according to how intense your run was. The longer you run, the longer your cool down should be.

Listen to your body; if you are feeling tightness in your calf muscles, increase your stretching. Remember there are two parts to your calf muscles so don’t forget to stretch both.

Ice, Ice, Ice; if you are feeling pain in your shins, apply ice for up to 30mins. Shin splints are an inflammation of the tissue but if left untreated can result in a stress fracture which will need professional help.



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