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Painful Shins or Shin Splints

If you have sharp or aching pain along the front of your lower leg, you might have shin splints. “Shin splint” is not a medical diagnosis, but rather a generic term for painful shins. This pain is usually caused by overtraining and is quite common among runners and walkers, particularly beginners or those who have recently resumed or increased their training.

Repeated pounding of the lower leg as in walking or running can aggravate the tendons, muscles and bones in the lower leg, resulting in pain and inflammation. If left untreated, shin splints can, in severe cases, lead to a stress fracture (tiny cracks in the shin bone). Stress fractures can also occur suddenly, so if you experience sudden pain localized to one spot, or if your shin splints do not respond to self-care, see your doctor for an x-ray.

Treatment

When you first feel pain in your shins, stop exercising and ice the area for about 20 minutes with an ice pack wrapped in a towel. If needed, take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen. Both these will reduce the inflammation and ease your pain.

Check your shoes to make sure they are not worn out. Proper cushioning can really lessen the stress of walking. If in doubt, go to a professional running shoe store and get fitted by the professionals there. You’ll know you are in a professional store if they ask questions about your problems and want to watch you walk and look at your current shoes before recommending a shoe.

If possible, change the surface you walk on. The best (or softest) outside surface is grass or dirt, second is asphalt-type pavement, and third (the hardest) is concrete such as sidewalks.

Stretches

The most important part of any plan for alleviating shin splints is stretching and strengthening your lower leg. There are many stretches you can do for shin splints, most involving stretching the calves.

Toe raises are great for shin pain, and my most recommended remedy. If you have shin splints, lift your toes often. Sitting at your desk or standing in line at the bank, just lift up your toes. Try it now. Can you feel your shin muscles moving? Repeated lifting of your toes will both stretch and strengthen those muscles, and can alleviate and even eradicate your shin pain.

You can do toe raises two ways. One is to just lift your toes with the rest of your foot remaining still. The next way is to lift all of your foot except your heel, as if you are going to walk on your heels. You’ll get a deeper stretch this way. You can also walk on your heels for a few yards.

Do up to 50 toe raises every few hours when your shins hurt and in most cases, you can resume your exercise program in just a few days. If you treat and stretch your shins immediately, you may be able to just rest a day and then walk again.

Keep doing toe raises regularly, wear properly fitted and cushioned shoes, avoid overtraining and you will probably find you do not get shin splints anymore.

ASICS have long been one of my favorite shoes. They’re sturdy and comfy and well-cushioned. One of my favorites is the ASICS® Women's Gel - Kayano XIII

For a good overall stretching program, I recommend Total Stretch for Beginners with Tamilee.

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