Valencia Wellness: Tips for Preventing Painful Shin Splints this Running Season

The longer days and warmer weather of spring can be invigorating, enticing runners of all levels to up their games. But while this time of year may motivate one to increase the duration, frequency and intensity of their runs, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard cautions that if the increase is too sudden, it could put the runner at the risk of a painful condition known as shin splints. 

“Shin splints isn’t a serious condition, but it can be painful and will most certainly hold runners and other active people back from their workout, and perhaps even other things they enjoy in life,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

Known in the medical world as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints present as soreness, tenderness and pain along the inside of the shin bone (tibia). At first, the pain may only be felt during a run or workout, Eckard said, but the condition may progress to the point where pain may be felt well after exercise. 

With about 3 million reported cases per year in the U.S., shin splints account for 13 to 17 percent of all running-related injuries. Dancers and military recruits also record a high incidence of shin splints. 

“People who take part in activities that involve high-impact stress on the legs are most susceptible to developing shin splints, especially during a time when the intensity of their exercise has suddenly increased,” said Eckard. “This increased stress can overwork the muscles, tendons and bone tissue in the lower leg, which can manifest as pain.” 

The key to overcoming shin splints, according to Eckard, is to rest. Take a few recovery days off from high-impact activities and exercises, and allow the body to heal. If you experience inflammation, ice can also be beneficial. 

However, it’s important, Eckard added, that runners and others susceptible to shin splints take steps to prevent the onset of the condition. Consider the following tips: 

Avoid overdoing it. When increasing the distance, duration, intensity and/or frequency of an exercise regimen such as running, do so gradually. Slowly building your fitness level over time is safer on the body than making quick, monumental leaps that can overload your shins. 

Wear proper shoes. Not only should you always wear a good pair of shoes, but the type of shoes you wear should fit your foot type. The right shoe for someone who’s flat-footed, for instance, won’t be right for someone with high arches, and vice versa. Also, wear the right type of shoes for your chosen activity or sport. 

Mix up your workouts. We all have our preferred ways of exercising, but mix it up once in a while. Alternate running with, say, cycling or swimming – something that still challenges you but with less impact on the body. 

Analyze your movement. A thorough, biomechanical running analysis performed by a physical therapist can identify movement patterns that may be leading to the onset of shin splints. You may find out that one small tweak in your running form can keep your shins healthy and pain-free. 

See a physical therapist. Besides performing a running analysis, a physical therapist is trained to analyze your entire kinetic chain to identify any imbalances or weaknesses that could put you at risk of pain or injury. From advising you on what shoes to wear to creating a personalized exercise regimen to help you move and perform better, teaming up with a physical therapist is an ideal step for those serious about pain and injury prevention. 

Valencia PT Offers Tips to Keep the Weekend Warrior Healthy, Injury Free

A “weekend warrior” is someone who, due to the hectic nature of a typical workweek, opts to cram most of her or his exercise into weekend workouts, activities, games and/or competitions.

And while Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard says he’ll never fault anyone for getting exercise, he added that weekend warriors should be particularly cautious as the sporadic nature of their workout schedule puts them at a greater risk of getting injured.

“Days of downtime followed by sudden bursts of activity over a day or two isn’t ideal,” said Eckard, co-owner of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “By putting greater stress on the body over a shorter period of time, weekend warriors should be aware that they’re putting themselves at greater risk of acute injuries, such as strains, sprains or worse.”

That’s because inactivity throughout the week can lead to a general deconditioning of the body that may include muscle tightness and imbalances, along with reduced endurance and cardiovascular fitness. A more consistent workout schedule can combat such deconditioning, Eckard says.

But if one truly does struggle to find time to achieve their expert-recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week without cramming them into just a couple of days, Eckard offers the following tips for avoiding injury.

Space It Out – Rather than packing your weekly exercise minutes into two back-to-back days at the end of the week, consider spacing these days out. This can help you avoid some of the deconditioning effects mentioned above.

Warm Up, Cool Down – When the weekend arrives and it comes time to take the field, hit the trails or tee off for 18, always warm up first. Take 5 to 10 minutes for some light resistance and cardio exercises to get the blood flowing. And after you’re done, cool down with some stretching. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout.

Temper Your Intensity – When you’re packing your workouts into just a couple days a week, don’t overdo it. As you’re not exercising as consistently, stay on the safe side by pulling back slightly on your intensity.

Mix It Up – Try not to fill your weekends with the same activities. Mix it up, perhaps focusing on cardio one weekend and strength another – or a variation thereof. This helps ensure your entire body remains balanced, reducing your chances of injury.

Stay Active During the Week – Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym during the week, don’t use that as an excuse to be completely sedentary. Capitalize on brief moments during the week to move around, stretch, and maybe even do some exercising. Take the stairs, stretch during your breaks, stand at your desk, walk during meetings or after work, and maybe even fit 10 minutes of at-home resistance training into your evenings.

Listen to Your Body – Always know your limits. And, if you feel aches and pains or suspect possible injury, stop exercising immediately and see a medical professional, such as a physical therapist. Don’t try to power through discomfort just so you can get through the weekend.