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Shin splints is the name often given to a condition called medial tibial stress syndrome. If you have ever taken up running, you might be familiar with the ache that signals shin splints. While shin splints can happen to anyone who runs, it's most common in new runners and those who have recently amped up their running workouts. The bad news is that the condition hurts and could potentially cause you to give up running. The good news is that in most cases, it's a self-limiting condition that can be treated with home care, sports massage and better running techniques.
Why are your shins hurting?
Despite the name, shin splints have nothing to do with your bone being splintered. Instead, the condition is caused by the inflammation and swelling of the tibialis anterior muscle. If you aren't sure where this muscle is, you can find it by placing your foot flat on the floor, then raising just the front part, so you toes move up and slightly toward your leg. Do you feel the tightening of the muscle in your shin? That's the culprit!
When you run, particularly on hard surfaces, your tibialis anterior muscles are working overtime to keep your feet under control and to prevent them from tripping you up. Over and over, the muscle is jarred, and when you're done with your workout, the soreness can really kick in.
What can you do to prevent this from happening in the first place?
As already mentioned, it's best to avoid running on hard surfaces (like concrete) if you can help it. Move over onto the grass or find a dirt path or a track to run on. If you are increasing your running regimen, it's helpful to do so slowly. Use particular caution if you start running down hills; the extra extension of your foot that's necessary can cause or exacerbate painful inflammation later.
Active.com recommends two exercises that you can do to help prevent shin splints. Both of these help to loosen up and stretch out the muscles that are affected. Do these after you run, as that's when the muscles will be loose and warm. You can also apply hot towels or take a hot shower to help loosen your muscles, then do the exercises.
In addition, buying supportive shoes can help you avoid this condition, as well as a host of other potential maladies of running. Talk to a sports medicine professional or a trained employee at your local sports store to decide on which type of running shoes are best for you.
What if you do get shin splints? Do you need to quit running?
Don't let shin splints turn you off of running forever. They're a sign that you've overexerted those muscles, but you just need to rest them, then start again. This time, try a more gradual approach to your running regimen.
While your shin splints are hurting you, you can apply ice to them. Use a thin towel to protect your skin (or just keep your running pants on), and place ice on the area for 20 minutes at a time, giving yourself at least 20 minutes to warm up before reapplying. After the first day, you can see whether heat or cold works best and apply your first choice. Or if you want to, you can alternate heat and cold.
Sports massage can also help. A sports medicine professional or a physical therapist can perform the massage or show you how to get the best results from massaging yourself.
Running is an excellent way to keep your heart healthy, build lower-body strength and lose weight. Shin splints can lay you up for a few days, but there's no need to let them ruin your running experience altogether. Take it slow, listen to your body, and consult with a sports injury doctor if warranted.Share