Last week, Haylie gave a great lesson about how shin splints are caused, and what stretches and strengthening exercises you can do, to not only help heal them, but to prevent them in the future! You can catch a video of her whole lesson at the bottom of this post!
How are shin splints caused?
Your shin bone is your tibia. It is very important because it has the big responsibility of carrying about 90% of the body's weight. For this reason, it is very prone to injury. The shin bone has an anterior and a posterior muscle that run along it, and inflammation or micro tears in either of these can lead to the two main types of shin splints-- both are equally common and equally painful!
Shin splints are not actually the bone "splinting" or breaking. They are caused by overuse, or repetitive exercises (like running, jogging, jumping, kickboxing) on the bottom half of your leg, which creates inflammation or swelling in the muscles and increased pressure on that tibia bone, leading to that pain that we know as shin splints.
Muscular imbalances can also cause shin splints. Maybe the front of your leg is stronger than the back, or maybe your calves are really tight. Or maybe when you run you are not extending your legs fully, causing poor mechanics that stress your lower leg. Previous injuries can also cause shin splints.
Front of Leg Stretches That Can Help Shin Splints:
1. Start on your knees. keeping your ankles tucked in with your ankle bones touching. Slowly lean back, keeping the tops of your feet, your shins and knees on the ground and you should immediately feel a nice stretch through the front of your legs. (Pictured above!!)
2. Stand up straight and cross one foot over the other. Point the toes of your front foot at the ground and then bend your foot forward so that your toes go underneath your foot and you feel a pull on the top of your foot and your lower leg. Do this for about 30 seconds and then repeat for the other foot. This is a great stretch to do before or after running.
3. Maybe you went for a jog last night and your shins are sore the morning after: Start in a seated position in a chair. Scoot to the front of the chair and curl your toes underneath you. Begin to slowly lean forward so that your toes and foot curl under even further and you will feel a nice stretch once again in your front lower leg. Do this 30 seconds on each leg to stretch out those sore shins.
Back Half of Leg Stretches that Help Shin Splints:
1. Start in a lunge position with one leg forward and your back leg slightly bent. Bend that back leg even further now so that your toes begin to point and your heel comes off the ground. Now, to stretch those tight calves, try to lower your heel to the ground without coming out of that lunge position. You will feel a great stretch in both your tight calves and probably also the lower front of the leg. Try this for 30 seconds then switch legs.
2. Sit down on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you, toes pointed up. Using a resistance band, loop one end of the band around the ball of your foot, and then slowly pull the band back toward you, in turn, pulling the top of your foot back and stretching out your calves. Once again, 30 seconds per foot for this stretch.
3. Finally, try a little yoga to stretch out your calves! The "Downward-Facing Dog" position is a great calf muscle stretch. On your hands and toes, make an upside V with your body. Then begin slowly pedaling each foot up and down, pausing the feel that calf stretch before pedaling the other foot.