Running on shin splints
October 11, 1999
Web posted at: 4:16 PM EDT (2016 GMT)
By Rebecca Seguin, with Raymond Lie
It started as a minor irritation, some soreness from the inside of her left shin at the start of her neighborhood runs. Alyssa Mellott figured it wasn't serious and continued to run about four miles a day, five days a week for another month before the minor irritation turned into a sharp pain that made running difficult.
"It felt like someone was stabbing my leg with a knife," says the 22-year-old San Franciscan. "Another runner I work out with told me that I had shin splints and suggested that I stay off the pavement for awhile."
After reducing her runs to twice a week and mixing in workouts on her local gym's cardio machines, Mellott noticed the pain in her shin disappeared.
Shin splints are common
Mellott's painful experience is common for joggers. In fact, shin splints account for approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of all running injuries, and up to 60 percent of all conditions that cause pain in an athlete's legs, according to a 1985 review article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
People who are most susceptible to shin splints have low arches, limited flexibility, train on hard surfaces and participate in high-impact activities, such as distance running, soccer, basketball, jumping and aerobics.
A shin-splint sufferer experiences pain along the shinbone, running anywhere from the knee to the ankle. The pain results from tiny tears, caused by strain in the muscle fibers that lie on the shinbone. At its worst, even walking can cause pain.
Rest is best
Experts say the best first response is two to three weeks of rest. That means no impact or weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise. However, activities such as biking or swimming are okay. If you keep running on the injury, the condition and pain will only worsen over time.
After at least a week of rest, you can begin a variety of flexibility and strengthening exercises for the lower leg.
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Slowly rotate your ankles so your toes point straight away from you, in line with your legs. Hold the position for approximately 15 seconds. Repeat several times throughout the day.
2. Stretch your calf muscles (back of the lower leg) by standing about a foot away from a wall. Face the wall, placing your hands on the surface for support and positioning the toes of one foot against the wall while keeping the opposite leg straight. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in the straight leg. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat several times a day. To enhance the stretch, start by standing farther from the wall.
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your toes pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Have a partner sit or kneel facing you, holding each of your feet. Your partner then pulls your feet toward him or her. The pulling should be done with moderate force as you try to resist. After 10 to 15 seconds, take a brief rest. Repeat the exercise six to eight times a day. After the first week, have your partner gradually increase the resistance.
2. Sit on the floor with your partner in the same position as described above. This time, have your partner push your feet toward you from the ball of your foot using moderate force while you resist. The pushing should last 10 to 15 seconds, followed by a brief rest. Repeat six to eight times a day. After the first week, your partner should gradually increase the resistance.
3. Stand with your toes and the balls of your feet on the bottom step of a staircase. Your heels should hang off the edge of the step. Slowly bring your heels up and stand on your toes. Hold this position for three to five seconds. Slowly lower the heels as far as you can. Repeat eight to 12 times. Complete two to three sets a day.
Rebecca Seguin is Project Director for the Center for Physical Fitness at Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She has served as a fitness manager at a private fitness facility where she trained and managed a team of exercise specialists and created exercise programs for a broad spectrum of clients. Ms. Seguin also has served as a fitness specialist for the "Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter" and contributed to the recent revision of an international best seller, "Strong Women Stay Young."Copyright 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
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