Thursday, August 8, 2013

Health Care and Shin Splints

If you are an athlete, especially a runner, or engage in physical activities like jogging, cross country or marathon races, then likely you are familiar with shin splints, or know someone in those sports that have suffered from them. Shin splints is a common injury that affects athletes who engage in running sports or physical activity. This condition is characterized by pain in the lower part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. Plus, ignoring this type of injury may result in a more serious condition such as a stress fracture or breakage of the bones.

The term "shin splints" refers to pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia), according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Shin splints typically develop after physical activity, often associated with running. Any vigorous sports activity can bring on shin splints, especially if you are just starting a fitness program. Simple measures can relieve the pain of shin splints. Rest, ice, and stretching often help. Taking care not to overdo your exercise routine will help prevent shin splints from coming back.

The AAOS continues to mention that shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. Pain typically occurs along the inner border of the tibia, where muscles attach to the bone. In general, shin splints develop when the muscle and bone tissue (periosteum) in the leg become overworked by repetitive activity. Runners are at highest risk for developing shin splints. Dancers and military recruits are two other groups frequently diagnosed with the condition.

Shin splints often occur after sudden changes in physical activity, according to the AAOS. These can be changes in frequency, such as increasing the number of days you exercise each week. Changes in duration and intensity, such as running longer distances or on hills, can also cause shin splints. Other factors that contribute to shin splints include:

• Having flat feet or abnormally rigid arches
• Exercising with improper or worn-out footwear

More detailed info about shin splints can be found at this site: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00407 .

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), begin the healing process with 2 - 4 weeks of rest.

• Rest completely (other than walking for daily activities) for at least 2 weeks.
• You can try other training activities, such as swimming or biking.

After 2 - 4 weeks, and when the pain is gone, you can start running again. Increase your activity level slowly. If the pain returns, stop exercising right away. Warm-up and stretch before and after any exercise. Use ice or a cold pack over the area for 20 minutes, twice a day. Over-the-counter pain medications will also help. Talk with your health care provider or a physical therapist about wearing the proper shoes, getting orthotics for your shoes, and running on the right types of surfaces. Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Although shin splints are seldom serious, you may need to call your health care provider if:

• The pain continues and is persistent, even with rest
• You are not sure whether your pain is caused by shin splints
• You don't improve with home treatment after several weeks
• You have a stress fracture

You can find more detailed health information from the NIH about shin splints here at this site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003177.htm .

According to Runner’s World Magazine, experts agree that when shin splints strike you should stop running completely or decrease your training depending on the extent and duration of pain. Then, as a first step, ice your shin to reduce inflammation. Here are some other treatments you can try:

Gently stretch your Achilles if you have medial shin splints, and your calves if you have anterior shin splints. Also, try this stretch for your shins: Kneel on a carpeted floor, legs and feet together and toes pointed directly back. Then slowly sit back onto your calves and heels, pushing your ankles into the floor until you feel tension in the muscles of your shin. Hold for 10 to 12 seconds, relax and repeat.

In a sitting position, trace the alphabet on the floor with your toes. Do this with each leg. Or alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of regular walking. Repeat four times. These exercises are good for both recovery and prevention. Try to do them three times a day.

If you continue running, wrap your leg before you go out. Use either tape or an Ace bandage, starting just above the ankle and continuing to just below the knee. Keep wrapping your leg until the pain goes away, which usually takes three to six weeks. What you're doing is binding the tendons up against the shaft of the shin to prevent stress..

Consider cross-training for a while to let your shin heal. Swim, run in the pool or ride a bike. When you return to running, increase your mileage slowly--no more than 10 percent weekly. Make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your foot type specifically, and over-pronators should wear motion-control shoes. Severe over-pronators may need orthotics. Have two pairs of shoes and alternate wearing them to vary the stresses on your legs.

Avoid hills and excessively hard surfaces until shin pain goes away completely, then re-introduce them gradually to prevent a recurrence. If you frequently run on roads with an obvious camber, run out and back on the same side of the road. Likewise, when running on a track, switch directions. If you are prone to developing shin splints, stretch your calves and Achilles regularly as a preventive measure. More information about how you can treat shin splints can be found at this site: http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/shin-splints .

Shin splints in general can be very painful, and if you ignore the symptoms lead to more severe health care problems. If you need medical assistance in severe cases, as always consult your physician. Athletes know the secret to healthy living is taking preventive care of themselves. If you are a professional runner, or even a fitness hobbyist who likes to run or exercise, follow the common sense routines that help prevent this type of injury.

Until next time.

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