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What Are Shin Splints?

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I have been a runner for over three decades, and surprisingly, I have avoided any type of injury in my quest to stay fit and trim. I remember those track and field days back in high school wherein several of my team mates sustained those dreaded shin splints. To this day, I am thankful that my body has yet to experience such a fate. Just last month, while running with my husband, he began to notice the onset of pain from them, so I decided to pursue the topic a bit more in an effort to understand this condition and how it can be treated.

Generically speaking, shin splints refer to any pain in the lower, front part of the leg. More accurately, however, true shin splints occur at the front inside of the shin bone and can stem from a host of causes, the most common of which is the inflammation of the sheath surrounding the shin bone, also known as periostium of the tibia.

Most of the contributing factors to shin splints are biomechanical in nature. Shin splints can be caused by overpronation or oversupination of the feet, as well as decreased flexibility of the ankle joint. Inadequate footwear, increasing your level of training too quickly, or running on hard surfaces can cause shin splints.

Symptoms of shin splints include pain over the inside lower half of the shin, pain at the beginning of an exercise session that subsides as the exercising continues, the return of pain after exercising that may be noticeably more intense the following day, some swelling, the presence of lumps and bumps that can be felt when touching the inside of the shin bone, pain when the toes or foot are bent downwards, and possibly a redness over the inside of the shin.

No matter what your level of fitness or exercise goals, the treatment options for fitness are designed to allow you to get the necessary rest so you can be up and on the go as quickly as possible.

Obviously, proper rest to allow the injury to heal is necessary. Cold packs or ice can reduce the pain and swelling. Work on stretching the lower leg muscles, most notably the tibialis posterior. Be sure to wear shock-absorbing insoles in shoes. You can continue with your fitness regimen through other avenues, such as cycling, swimming, or running in water. (I love to run in water! It is one of the best forms of exercise, and once you get back to running on dry land again, you feel unstoppable!) Heat therapy can also work, which will allow for the blood vessels to dilate and stimulate the flow of blood to promote healing. If necessary, consult a specialist at a sports injury clinic for treatment and rehabilitation.

If you are an avid runner, or even just a recreational runner, mix up the surfaces upon which you run. Continual pounding on hard surfaces is an open invitation for shin splints. Try running on tarmac, grass, or sand when possible to reduce the shock on the legs. If you are working towards increasing the number of miles you run, do so gradually to avoid over-working your leg muscles.

And when you run with someone who has shin splints, avoid poking fun at him or her, as most assuredly, he or she might kick you in the shin and then what are you left with? Just make sure you can run slightly faster to avoid this type of sports-related injury!

(Information for this article was found at www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/front/lowerleg/shinsplints.htm)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.