Shin splint stretches can be performed both to alleviate and also to prevent the painful condition of shin splints. Performing shin splint stretches only takes a few minutes. Doing exercises to alleviate shin splints can actually shorten the length and duration of the time that you suffer from this condition.
What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints are a painful condition of the shins - the area that runs along the lower front part of your legs. The pain of the condition usually comes from inflammation to the tendon and surrounding tissues in the outer part of the lower leg. Shin splints are a repetitive stress injury that often arises from running and jumping. There are a number of different types of shin splints that have different physiological etiologies; however, the most common type is muscle soreness that arises from improper warm up, overtraining, or repetitive striking motions of the lower leg that occurs in running or jumping.
The three main causes of shin splints are muscle overuse (the most common type of shin splints); chronic compartment syndrome, which is a swelling of the lower leg that can block blood flow; and pes planus, which is medial tibial pain brought about by repetitive stress on flat feet. While stretching can help all three types of shin splints, it is most effective in reducing the pain of shin splints caused by overuse.
What Do Shin Splints Feel Like?
Shin splints usually start as a small area of dull pain in the front or outer front part of your lower leg; however, without treatment, the pain can become extremely severe and extend throughout the lower front part of your leg. For many, the pain of shin splints can be debilitating.
Shin Splint Stretches
Performing shin splint stretches is one way to help to alleviate the pain of shin splints. The stretches can also be used to prevent shin splints from occurring in the first place, lessen the duration of the injury, or prevent shin splints in their early stages from becoming even more severe.
Although the pain of shin splints manifests in the front of the lower leg, these stretches focus on the entire lower leg - including your calves and your shins - because all of the lower leg muscles play a role in the development of shin splints.
Anterior Tibialis Stretch
Your anterior tibialis is a muscle that extends from the tibia into the foot. It is one of the primary muscles that comes into play when you experience the pain of shin splints. To stretch your anterior tibialis, use the following steps.
- Stand next to a sturdy chair so that you can use the backrest for balance.
- Place one foot slightly in front of the other - with the toes of your back foot just an inch or so behind the heel of your front foot.
- Lightly grasp the back of the chair for balance.
- Keeping the toes of both feet firmly on the ground, slightly bend your knees, and shift your weight forward so that your knee moves over the toes of your front foot. You should feel a stretch in the front of the leg.
- Hold the stretch steady for 20 seconds and then gently release it.
- Repeat the stretch with your other foot in the front position.
Your calf muscles are the muscles that make up the back part of your lower leg. There are two main muscles of the calf - the soleus and the gastrocnemius. Stretching these muscles is an important part of preventing and alleviating shin pain. To stretch your calf muscles, use the following steps.
- Find an area where there is a small step or a curb. Stand below the curb or step, facing it with your toes pointed at the edge of the curb.
- Place the ball of your right foot on the step or curb.
- Gently press the heel of your right foot down towards the ground. You should feel a good stretch in your calf.
- Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then gently release.
- Repeat the stretch using your left leg.
- When you are stretching, never bounce the stretch. Instead, gently ease into the stretch.
- Never stretch to a point of pain. You should feel a good stretch in the muscle. If you feel pain, back off the stretch a little.
- For maximum effectiveness, hold stretches for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Never stretch a cold muscle. If you are suffering from shin splints, you should stretch both before and after exercise. However, when stretching before exercise, always do some type of a warm up of the area (such as light walking or jogging) for about five minutes prior to stretching.
Shin splints are a common injury. While painful, they can be easily managed using a combination of prevention and stretching following injury.