Get Rid of Shin Splints – Forever! – With This Simple Exercise Routine
End shin splints for good!
The sun is out, the weather’s warming up, the snow’s melted, and soon enough we’ll be breaking out the shorts, t-shirts and sneakers. Even though, if you’ve lived in Wisconsin long enough, you know not to get too excited just yet…
But let’s ignore that and be optimistic. Power of positive thinking, right?
So you might be thinking it’s time to shed that winter weight, lace up the sneakers and start running. But wait! Just as you start getting results, you also get pain. In your shins. It’s bad.
Shin splints are one of the most common running and sports injuries I see at Ascent Chiropractic, and they can really knock you off your groove. Luckily, with one simple routine, you can totally eliminate your shin splints. Here’s how to send them packing back to hell, where they belong.
Or Minnesota. Either one.
What are shin splints, anyway?
The medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome. They’re a result of fatigue and inflammation in the muscle in the front of your leg, along with the the posterior peroneal tendon and/or the posterior tibial tendon. Pain usually occurs around the front, outer side of your tibia (shin bone).
The tibia is responsible for absorbing shock from impact during running. As a result, it’s particularly prone to injuries.
Shin splints are considered to be an overuse injury, and they’re incredibly common. What most people don’t realize is that it’s pretty easy to treat, and not something you need to just suffer through until it goes away.
So if you’re dealing with shin splints, I’m going to give you one simple exercise routine that you’re going to do two sets of every day, and your shin splints will be gone within the week.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not, and there’s research that shows it works.
Disclaimer: Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional to get a medical diagnosis and advice on a treatment plan for your particular condition before beginning any self-treatment described here. You should avoid tissue flossing if you have high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, cardiac disease or are pregnant.
Here’s how to do it
First you’re going to need something called “floss” – a long elastic band which is like a common physiotherapy TheraBand, only thicker. You’ll find it at our office under the brand name RockFloss, but you can also use Rogue Fitness VooDoo X Bands or EDGE Mobility Bands.
1. Take the floss band and, starting below the calf, begin wrapping upwards with 50% overlap of the previous loop. Don’t exceed 50% stretch of the band. The goal is for the band to be on tight enough to compress, but not so tightly that circulation gets cut off.
2. Finish by tucking in the end.
3. Find some steps. Actually, just one step or a curb will do.
4. Turn so you’re facing down the step. Scoot forward until just your heels are on the step, with the rest of your foot hanging off (you can hold a wall or railing for balance).
5. With your legs straight, point your toes downward as far as you can, then lift them up as far as you can. Repeat.
6. Use a timer. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds. Do them rapidly, but with full extension and flexion.
7. After 30 seconds, bend your knees at a 45-degree angle (about half way). Without pausing to rest, do another 30 seconds of flexing in that position. Rest for 60 seconds.
8. Turn around, so you’re facing the step, with your heels hanging off. Keeping your knees straight, slowly lower your heel. Then contract your calves and extend your ankle as far as range of motion allows. Repeat for 30 seconds.
9. Again bend your knees at a 45-degree angle and perform another 30-second set of calf raises.
10. That’s one complete set. If it burns, then you’re doing it correctly.
11. Rest for a minute or two, then do another set — 30 seconds of toe raises with the legs straight, immediately followed by 30 seconds with the knees bent, then 30 seconds of calf raises with the knees straight and 30 seconds of calf raises with the knees bent.
12. Each day, do two of these four-part sets.
Why does this work?
Shin splints, as well as tibial stress fractures (a more serious injury), actually have the same root cause: bending of the tibia during running. When your foot hits the ground running, the force traveling up your legs puts stress on your shin, causing it to bend slightly backwards. The shin absorbs a force equal to 2-3 times your body weight with every step of your stride – up to 100 times per shin per minute.
The degree to which your shinbone bends with a given impact depends on two factors: how thick the bone is, and how well it’s supported by the muscles around it. Fortunately, studies have shown that having strong lower leg muscles helps on both of these fronts.
Think of your lower leg like a bridge: the calf muscles are basically the strong cables on a suspension bridge. When the muscles tense up, like they do during impact with the ground, they counter the bending forces that are attempting to deform and strain the tibia. So runners with stronger ‘suspension cables’ will be more less susceptible to tibia injuries.
Plus, the tibia grows and thickens in response to the size of the muscles around it, so stronger lower leg muscles directly translates to shin bones that are more resistant to injury.
How does flossing help?
To understand why flossing helps with what we’re trying to do, first we need to understand how pain messages work in the body. A sensory nerve can only carry one type of message back to the brain at a time (temperature, pressure, movement, or nociception/pain) – something known as the gate control theory. In runners suffering from shin splints, pain messages are being prioritized.
Flossing allows a new message (pressure) to override the pain message. This allows for easier, pain free movement through the entire range of motion without your body yelling “stop!” when you attempt these exercises.
Second, flossing causes something called fascial shearing between layers of muscle that helps ‘unstick’ muscles and break up scar tissue.
As long as you don’t have any pre-existing heart or blood clot conditions and are in-tune with your body’s pain threshold, flossing is pretty safe. Just make sure to have your chiropractor or physiotherapist show you how to use it the first few times.
What if this doesn’t work?
Most runners will get significant relief with this routine, but research has shown that sometimes you need a little extra support.
Shock-absorbing orthotics promote alignment of the bones and muscles in the feet and ankles, and help to stabilize the foot while running, reducing the amount of stress your shins are forced to absorb.
Foot Levelers XP3+ orthotics – specifically designed for runners – can be a great investment if you’re serious about making running a habit, since they’re custom-made to give your feet and lower legs exactly the support they need.
We use Foot Levelers because their foot scanning technology is leaps and bounds more advanced than the methods used by literally every other orthotic company on the market. The better the scan, the better the orthotic fits your foot – which translates to better distribution of the stress caused by running!
Finally, if things don’t improve within a few weeks, it’s worth giving us a call to rule out a stress fracture (especially if the pain is localized to an area only an inch or two in size). It usually takes detailed x-ray imaging to diagnose a stress fracture, and they’re definitely not something you want to try to run on.
The Ascent Chiropractic Difference
There’s a reason so many athletes choose us – we’re experts in biomechanics and can help you determine the best course of treatment. Ready to get started? Make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic by calling 262-345-4166 or using our online scheduling app.