Whether you're an experienced runner or just getting started, you could be at risk of developing shin splints. Team Grenade Ambassador and Exercise Performance specialist, Adam Whatley, gives you 6 quick stretches to help with the prevention shin splints.
In this blog article we will be discussing options on how to prevent the likelihood of developing shin splints. We will also discuss an understanding on what shin splints are, whether you are likely to develop them and how to strengthen specific areas of your body to help you to prevent the onset of this painful condition.
If you are an avid runner you will more than likely understand the basics of what shin splints are and how they can affect your performance. Many athletes, especially runners, will experience the common pain associated with shin splints. This can particularly appear if the individual is new to an activity (such as running), or suddenly increases their tempo or environment. For example, if they begin training on hard concrete or uneven surfaces.
Shin splits are known as 'medial tibial stress syndrome' or 'periostitis', which means injury to the connective muscle tissue on the inside of the shin bone. It is commonly associated with repetitive overuse, hence why it is common amongst runners.
Signs and Symptoms
- Pain and tenderness along the lower inner leg bone (often just a few inches above the inner ankle bone)
- Increased pain when running on hard surfaces or running downhill
- Pain occurring fairly early on in the run, then subsiding as the muscles warm up, and then returning as the the muscles suffer with fatigue
Shin splints are often caused by poor biomechanics or faulty running techniques, such as running with an over-stride and landing too heavy on the heel. Over-stride can cause increased loading on the shin bone and on the associated muscle (tibialis posterior). In addition, if you have poor biomechanics (pronation or flat feet), or if you are new to running or athletic activity, you can be prone to developing shin splints.
How to deal with the symptoms of shin splints?
- Gradually build your training and endurance
- Avoid sudden increase in distance when running. Gradually increase the load/distance
- Run on soft surfaces where possible. This will help to improve shock absorption and to disperse the forces more evenly
- Wear the appropriate footwear and get an assessment to find the best footwear where possible
- Modify your running technique to decrease the load on your shins. Try running with a more upright posture and your hips forward. Also, try taking smaller steps or running with softer steps
- Incorporate specific strengthening exercises into your training program. The exercises should involve strengthening gluteals and core. These muscles will work together to improve your propulsion. Your gluteals and core muscles will also help you to maintain an upright posture
Try these 6 quick exercises to help prevent shin splints
(1) Bridges and Single Leg Bridges
Lying on your back, knees bent at 90°, dig your heels into the ground and slowly raise your hips off the ground. Shoulders, hips and knees should be level. Hold contraction for one second, lower and repeat. Focus areas for this stretch are the glutes, lower back, hamstrings, pelvic floor and abdominals.
Single leg: raise one leg of the ground so this leg is completely straight and both knees are together. Repeat the above. Focus on glute activation rather than hamstrings.
2) Calf Stretching
Place the ball of your foot on a small step (similar to size of a curb). With your leg and knee straight, bring your body forward, until a stretch is felt in the calf muscle. Hold for 15 seconds. As you exhale slightly, stretch further. Then, when you come out of the stretch, slightly softening the knee, come forward again until the stretch is felt slightly lower just above the Achilles’ tendon. Repeat on other leg.
3) Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Lying completely on your side, very slightly rotate the pelvis forward. Then, raise your top leg off the floor until you feel a muscle contraction in the side of your hip/glute.
Note: raise heel up first NOT toes. This should not be felt in the front, if it's not, rotate the pelvis forward more. Repeat slowly 15 times and swap sides.
4) Hip Stability/Resistance Band Side Abductions
Place both knees at 90°. Keeping the heels together, raise the top knee approximately 30 cm without rotating the pelvis backwards. Contraction should be felt again at the side of the hip/glute. Repeat 15 times. Resistance band is placed 2 inches above the bend at the knees to increase resistance. Again, perform slow and controlled.
5) Single Leg Stability Holds On Disc
Balance is crucial in the ankle when managing shin splints. Practice balancing on one leg on a stability disc with a slightly softened knee. Use the opposite toe to reinforce stability if required.
6) Single Leg Bent Knee Deadlifts
Standing on one leg, bending the knee, slowly and with the opposite arm touch the shin to which you are standing on. Trying and keep chest and chin up and allow for movement at the knee. Muscles activated when performing this are glutes, hamstrings, lower back.
Implementing some of these preventative techniques can save you from the pain and suffering associated with this ailment and reduce the recovery time in the future so you can focus on training and progression. Also, improving your technique might also prevent other types of injuries, helping you to achieve increased performance goals. Remember, prevention is key! If symptoms develop seek the correct advice to minimise the impact.
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