What are shin splints?

Shin splints can be described as pain felt through the front of the shin, along the tibia and can be caused by a number of issues. Shin splints can often flare up after acute bouts of exercise or training overload such as increased frequency of running or jumping.

How to prevent shin splints

Looking for strategies to manage shin splints can be quite difficult and there can be many different strategies.

The most important thing to look at when trying to manage your shin splints is to carefully critique your daily and weekly loads of running or jumping. This can be as simple as mapping out the distance of your runs per session and adding them to a weekly total. When running, if you are looking to increase the distance, it is important to do this in a graded manner, after evaluation of your weekly total.

For example, if the distance run during week 1 was 10km, an appropriate increase would be 2-4 km, following a slow progressive increase in manageable increments as tolerated.

By doing this, there is an adequate amount of time given for the muscles around the legs to adapt to the changes in workload appropriately.

Pain relief for shin splints

To assist with pain relief, a good place to start is to foam roll through the calf which can help to relieve the sensation of tightness and pain around the belly of the calf muscle. This should be done consistently throughout the day for short periods of time.

If there is pain at the front of the shin, a golf ball with sorbolene cream can be used as a massage tool to work through the muscle belly on the outside of the shin or simply rolling on the ground.

After foam rolling and self-massaging, there are a few must-do exercises to strengthen the calf complex. This should include; calf raises and tempo calf raises, both of which should be done with a straight and bent knee.

Depending on the location of the pain/ tightness, it may also be beneficial to strengthen through the front of the shin through resisted heel lifting exercises.

Before performing these exercises, it is important to consult with a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist to determine which exercises should be individually tailored to your needs.