There is recent a rash of shin splints going around and they are extremely contagious. They appear to sneak up on you unsuspectingly, although they have probably been manifesting for some time. Shin splints are characterized by pain along the front of the tibia (a bone of the lower leg) and are most noticeable with higher impact activities. Over this past week alone, I've had about 5 different friends ask me what they can do about the shin splints they have been experiencing while running. I am officially declaring it a world-wide epidemic!
I'm not a physical therapist, although I play one on TV, but here are some short term strategies to consider while you schedule an appointment with a real one.
'The Four S's'
Shoes - Everything starts at your feet, so make sure you have the right shoe for you. There are shoe stores like Fleet Feet in Washington, D.C. where they will recommend specific shoes for you by a foot assessment and your current activity level. As a fule of thumb, if your shoes are like the Flintstones car, where your feet are scrapping the payment, its time for a new pair.
Surface - Vary your running surfaces to help absorb some of the ground reaction forces: treadmill, grass, track, wood flooring are different options for you. If you are not wearing heels or a dress shoe no one should hear you run! L anding quietly on the ball of the foot, may also help with shock absorption.
Stretching - Start with your calf muscles, use the straight legged calf stretch and also try a set or two with a little bend in your back knee. If this doesn't do the trick, have a personal trainer show you how to stretch your hamstrings and tensor fasciaelatae (A muscle of your hip, not Starbucks special).
Strengthening - Begin by targeting the muscles opposite the calf complex and surrounding the 'shin bone'. To do this, tap your foot like you are jammin' to some good music for up to 60 seconds. Be sure to keep your heel on the floor and put emphasis on raising your toes up in the air. You can do this anywhere at your desk, on the train, waiting in line, or even on the couch.
Parting Words from LB:
If left untreated shin splints could lead to a stress fracture! Always play it safe, seek out a health or medical professional that specializes in injuries if any discomfort or pain persists more than a few days. Ice your shins for 20 minutes right after your workout and repeat.