What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints can wreak havoc on just about anyone – from those who are brand new to working out to elite athletes, shin splints and the corresponding pain are an overuse injury common to many. Technically, shin splints are also termed “medial tibial stress syndrome” within the medical community. They occur due to constant stress from the connective tissue in the lower part of the leg pulling on the insertion on the tibia (one of the bones in the lower leg).
What Causes Shin Splints?
Essentially, repetitive movements, such as running, jumping, walking, and even dancing, can cause shin splints, causing the lower leg muscles and bone to ache and become swollen. If the repetitive motion persists over a long period without a break to let the inflammation subside and the pain decrease, there is a chance of a stress fracture occurring in the tibia, which would significantly set training back.
Unfortunately, when it comes to treadmills, shin splints are an all too common injury. Granted, you can get shin splints from running outside (especially downhill). But treadmills can undoubtedly make matters of the shin worse since the overall biomechanics of how the body operates as the tread moves requires more strength and endurance within the muscles of the lower leg than most people have, especially if just starting on a treadmill.
Ways to Prevent Shin Splints
If your workout of choice is on a treadmill – regardless of if you are walking or running – then you might find yourself developing shin splints at one point or another. Thankfully, with rest and ice, shin splints can heal; however, there are some other things you can do to help prevent your lower legs from being sore before it happens.
One of the first factors to think about is the type of shoe you are wearing. Running and walking shoes are designed to be supportive through all the miles, so make sure that the footwear you are using is correct for the particular activity that you’ll be doing. If you want to take it a step further, find your local running store, and the specialists there should be able to watch your gait and provide any additional assistance regarding orthotic use or the like.
A second factor to keep in mind is your present activity level; although we might have to step back a bit and evaluate where we are fitness-wise, this can aid in reducing or preventing shin splints. If you are brand new to running, then aiming to run 2-3 times a week for 3 miles each time is overdoing it.
Likewise, the same can be said if you are coming back from an injury or needing some time for active recovery. Being realistic about your fitness health – and correspondingly, setting the proper goals for yourself in terms of just how quickly you jump back into exercise – can play a huge part in preventing shin splints.
A third factor to consider is your warmup and cool down. These are both integral pieces of your overall workout and should be programmed accordingly. Aim for your warmup to be anywhere from 5-10 minutes in length and include dynamic movements. For running or walking, this could be buttkicks and walking lunges to inchworms and high knees.
A proper cool down after your workout is key as well, and static stretching is usually appropriate in order to decrease tightness in the muscles. Foam rolling can also be of assistance if needed as well.
Unfortunately, just about anyone can suffer from a bout of shin splints, especially if your exercise of choice is to run or walk on a treadmill. Thankfully, with the proper precautions, there are ways that you can reduce or even prevent their occurrence. Speak with your PCP or local sports medicine doctor if you’re feeling any pain or discomfort while working out, and if you do have shin splints, work back into your chosen activity carefully.