DAVE WATTS, MD
The potential causes of shin splints and how to prevent them
For kids and adults who lead an active lifestyle, the threat of shin splints looms large in the distance. Caused by the stress of activity-related injury or contact, shin splints occur when too much strain is put on the lower leg, often during a sports game. Shin splints can often necessitate medical treatment. In some cases, ankle surgery, along with sprained ankle treatment is required. So how can we prevent the pain and suffering that comes along with a shin splint diagnosis? Most orthopedic sports medicine physicians will tell you that it’s a combination of training correctly and taking care of yourself on and off the field. If you’re trying to prevent shin splints altogether, here are a few methods to try.
Warm Up with Lunges
If you’re not spending at least a few minutes a day on leg and ankle stretches before doing a workout, you’re missing out on a ton of increased mobility as well as protection for your lower body. Even though it might not seem like you should have to warm up your ankles, doing small stretches like putting your right foot over your left foot during a downward dog yoga position or doing rotating ankle stretches can help you run better and perform leg exercises with more ease. It will also help to prevent you from putting too much stress on your ankles, which could result in shin splints. Protecting your ankles by doing the right warm-ups as well as wearing the right shoes for the job will keep your shins safe from harm. Make sure your footwear has a good supportive arch and doesn’t allow you to put too much pressure on one part of your foot during running or cardio exercise.
Wear the Right Gear
Getting the right footwear is a start. If you want to protect the rest of your body, you’ll need to pay attention to your joints as well with protective braces and compression socks. Keeping your ankles and calves mobile will help protect you from making the wrong move on the court or on the field. Because your lower legs are made of a series of smaller, interwoven muscles, wearing the right support will help to keep the stress off certain parts and help with equal distribution during cardio exercises.
Do Balance Exercises
One of the easiest ways to protect your feet, ankles, and calves is to do exercises that improve your balance. Luckily, many of these exercises are part of a basic yoga class or warm-up routine for athletes or gym-goers. Working on a simple balance pose like a tree pose can help you keep your balance, while plank pose can help engage your core and strengthen your calves. Doing squats can help you perfect your reflexes while staying aware of the pressure you’re putting on your feet, ankles, and calves. Use your squats to think about how you’re distributing your weight, and try to keep shifting your weight to your heels and quads rather than allowing it to sit in your calves and toes.