Many people start an exercise program, get motivated, and get walking only to be halted by incessant, sharp pains in their shins. Shin splints are one of the more common varieties of overuse, soft-tissue injuries. Everyone from distance runners to indoor, treadmill walkers can experience pain associated with shin splints. So, what causes shin splints, and what can we do to help avoid getting them?
During some forms of exercise the tibia, or “shin”, may actually be required to support relative loads up to six times a person’s body weight. This burden causes a lot of stress to the myofascial tissue around the shin. Additionally the tibialis anterior – the muscle along the shin – and other connective tissue along the shin are constantly pulled and manipulated by the much stronger calf muscles which flex the ankle during walking or running. This abuse of the the tissue around the shin can causes inflammation and resultant pain.
When pain associated with shin splints occurs, it’s always a good idea to allow some time for recovery. Instead of walking or running, try a lower-impact mode of cross training like swimming or biking. In more severe cases, ice or an anti inflammatory may be required (ask your doctor). When the shins are feeling better, incorporate some exercises to enhance the strength of the tibialis anterior and tissue around the shin. Standing dorsi flexion works well. Simply stand and lift the toes towards the shins. Two or three sets of about twenty repetitions should suffice. As the exercise becomes easier, perhaps lay light ankle weights across the toes to augment resistance. The DHAC fitness center actually has a machine designed specifically to strengthen the tibialis anterior, so make sure to stop by and ask the Fitness Manager On Duty how it works.
Adding tibialis anterior strengthening as part of a balanced strength program may help to ensure that you’re able to stay on the road on the road to fitness!