The Skinny on Shin Splints

Ow! Do your legs get tender when running, jumping or jogging? The pain could be shin splints, and it could become much more serious if left untreated.

Athletes and exercise newcomers alike can experience shin splints, but many people aren’t even familiar with why they happen. They’re caused by stress on the shinbone and the tissues attaching the surrounding muscles to it, leading to inflammation and (sometimes intense) pain.

“Shin splints are also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome,” says Chris Mendoza, an exercise therapist and personal trainer at the Zone Health & Fitness. “It’s pain running along the shin bone—some feel it on the front of the shin bone and others feel it along the back depending on their foot mechanics. If left untreated, it can turn into stress fractures. When you’re running or jumping, you can produce seven to 11 times your body weight, so when something sits at a wrong angle, you can hurt yourself.”

The mechanics of your feet and ankles play a big role in whether you’re prone to developing shin splints. People with flat feet or weak ankles may experience them, as well as those wearing ill-fitting shoes or sneakers without enough support. Shin splints can also arise for anyone who makes sudden increases in the intensity of their exercise regimen, like going from the couch to running every day of the week.

Once you have shin splints, how do you begin to heal?

1“Rest, ice, compression and elevation is a process that is so underappreciated in our world. We always want a magic bullet or special device that will heal us overnight. But resting gives it a chance to rebuild on a cellular level, ice reduces inflammation and compression and elevation puts the icing on the cake,” says Mendoza.

The good news? Shin splints are completely preventable with the right training footwear and listening to your body. Pain means something is wrong, and you should always pay attention when you feel it, according to Mendoza.

“The best thing to do is make sure whatever sport you’re doing, you graduate into it and don’t go from zero to hero overnight,” Mendoza explains. “Make sure you have a good pair of shoes with supportive arches or insoles. Become aware of how you’re running or jumping, and find someone who has a special understanding of human movement.
A trained professional helping you out on top of those home remedies is recommended. And don’t hesitate to get looked at—whenever your body sends pain signals, it’s like a check engine light. Maintenance is the best preventative.”

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