Recreation

Health tip: How to cure shin splints

Exercise is not the 'cure all'

Cody Scharf
Cody Scharf

Editor’s note: Cody Scharf is the owner of Thrive Spine and Sport, a chiropractic and soft tissue clinic in Cedar Rapids focusing on sport and overuse injuries. Scharf is a graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic and certified by Integrative Diagnosis for diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries. This is the second of a two-part series on shin splints.

Dealing with shin splints is hard. Not being able to do something you love is even harder. We know that in order to do activities pain free, the body parts we use during that activity have to be able to perform that action (have proper movement/mobility) and have enough strength and endurance.

We already addressed the mobility aspect last week in Part 1. If you don’t have the proper ankle mobility, there is no need to read below. You MUST have the proper mobility of any joint before thinking about adding strength to the area. Adding strength without proper motion only compounds the problem.

For Part 2, we look at getting the lower extremity stronger and better able to handle the mileage you put your body through on a weekly basis. This is the icing on the cake to fixing your shin splints.

Adding strength doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, for shin splints, there are two very easy exercises that you can do at home with little to no equipment:

The first exercise is a calf raise. As boring and simple as this sounds, they really will help if done properly.

Stand on a stair at home with your heel off the step. Pushing through the ball of your foot, raise your heel above your toes until your ankle essentially “locks out.” Hold the position for two seconds. Slowly lower the heel below the toes. Lowering the heel should take roughly 3-5 seconds per rep. Start this exercise by doing two sets of 10 reps. Gradually work up to two sets of 20 reps.

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The second exercise requires a light resistance band. Wrap one end of the band around a sturdy base like a couch, desk or chair. Loop the other end of the band around the top of your foot. Sitting on the floor, slide back until the band begins to tense. With the leg flat on the ground, extend the foot and toes back toward your head. Return back to the starting position. Start this exercise for two sets of 10 working up to two sets of 20.

Again, it’s important to note that exercise is not a “cure all.” Lacking the proper ankle mobility that running requires is the biggest reason why people have shin splints. Strength helps to prevent them from coming back.

When coming back to running when dealing with shin splints it is also very important to manage your mileage to prevent overload and overtraining. A simple way to do this is with the 10 percent rule. Start small and gradually work your way back to your normal mileage.

As an example, if you are used to running 20 miles a week, start by running two. Every week or two, add 10 percent, or two miles, until you return back to your normal mileage. This helps to allow the body to accommodate and adapt to the mileage without the body becoming overloaded and breaking down.

Shin splints are never fun to have, but they can be fixed and prevented easier than you think.

l For more information, email Scharf at dr.cody@thrivespineandsport.com or visit www.thrivespineandsport.com

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