How to Treat Shin Splints

Recover faster from shin splints with these exercises and tips from STACK Expert Miguel Aragoncillo.

Shin splints

Shin splints are the bane of many athletes, whether they're runners or just forced into running for conditioning (ahem, football players). But fear no more, there are many steps you can take to relieve the pain—or prevent it entirely.

Shin splints can stem from poor footwear, inefficient running style, insufficient warm-up, muscle imbalances and fatigue, to name a few. Identifying your cause can lead you to relief faster. Some helpful tips:

Check Your Gait

Every person has a unique running gait, so no gait is "wrong," per se. But your gait might suffer from treatable deficiencies, like insufficient hip flexion—or tight hips, to put it plainly. When you push off, the ankle should be dorsiflexed throughout the swing phase to clear the foot. This type of repeated foot posture could lead to anterior shin splints.[1]

Fixing your technique to the extent possible takes a long time, and you should not attempt to do it during a sports season. But self-massage and strengthening techniques can help you alleviate discomfort and pain from shin splints.

Heal Thyself

You can perform self-massage with a foam roller, a lacrosse or tennis ball, or just your hands. Work for 10 to 30 seconds on an area causing discomfort, trying to get tense "knotted" muscles to release. Move on when the area is no longer sensitive to the touch.

Here's a video showing  Self-Myofascial Release of Calf Muscles and Peroneals In this exercise, you roll on a lacrosse ball, helping to alleviate the stress you are experiencing in your calf and side of the calf. Ideally you can perform this prior to your running or training session. You will be helping to reduce the amount of fibrotic tissue formed by excessive training.

Give It a Stretch

Once  your muscles are warmed up from foam rolling, move on to stretching. These exercises can be performed separately from one another, or in a progressive series:

Strength Exercises

The final two movements involve activating and integrating the muscles you just stretched and flexed. The Glute Wall March isolates the upper body so you can focus on knee and hip flexion and contralateral knee and hip extension.

The Sled March integrate all of these movements into a dynamic strength exercise that actively stabilizes your core and upper body while promoting full range of motion during flexion and extension of your lower body and hips. Watch out for rounding of the lower back, as this may indicate a lack of hip flexion and/or lack of core integrity.

Try these easy fixes so you can run and train without the pain of shin splints.

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[1] Sahrmann, S. "Movement impairment syndromes of the hip." Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. Mosby, 2001.

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