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How to avoid the dreaded shin splints

Health & Nutrition

Some consider it a Golden ticket; others, a poisoned chalice. If you’re the former, then this week may end in disappointment as you discover you were unlucky in this year’s London Marathon Ballot. However, if you’re one of the lucky 3.8% who were successful, today mark’s the start of a six month journey, full of long runs and aching legs, ultimately concluding after 26.2 miles on the mall in front of thousands of cheering spectators.

Running is a primal movement, something our ancestors have been doing for thousands of years. Despite this, our bodies haven’t perfectly adapted to running, with injuries still prevalent for a variety of reasons. One of the most common injuries associated with running is ‘Shin Splints’. Most runners will have experienced it, however If you’ve never suffered, it’s a nagging pain concentrated in the front of your leg along the tibia, usually experienced during and after exercise and when you press on the affected area. Shin Splints is often used as a catch all term for bone-related shin pain, called medial tibial stress syndrome, which can cover a broad spectrum of ailments, ranging from a stress injury (irritation of the bone) to a stress fracture (an actual crack in the bone). Shin pain when running can be attributed to three main factors: Body mechanics, activity rate and bone density. Body mechanics include foot arches, foot strike pattern and how your body is built.

If you’re going to be starting a marathon training plan in the coming weeks, or if you’re looking to exercise more, there are various injury prevention measures you can employ:

  • Visit a dedicated running shop to get a specific shoe fitting for your foot type and running style
  • Up your calcium and vitamin D intakes: Try 1,300 milligrams of calcium and 400 micrograms of D per day. Easy food sources are milk and yogurt. This can help to improve your bone density.
  • Follow the 10-percent rule: When starting a training plan, start slow, and never increase up your weekly mileage by more than 10%.
  • Train your hips, core and glutes: Strengthening these areas will make you a stronger runner, which improves footstrike and body mechanics.
  • Shorten your running stride: Doing this while increasing your footstrike cadence may help you generate better stride mechanics because you’ll be putting a lot less load on your feet, shins, knees, and on up the kinetic chain. Count your footstrikes on one side for 1 minute. A good number is 85 to 90 strikes of one foot per minute.

If you’re currently suffering from shin pain, begin recovery protocol and RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Foam rolling and manual massage may also help. In some cases, the pain can be attributed to tight fascia, the tough material that wraps most of our muscles. Run your shins and calves over a foam roller for several minutes several times a day to help loosen the fascia.

If the pain persists, consult a medical professional as it may be a more serious bone injury. Stress injuries can become stress fractures, which can sideline you for a long time. Our Physiotherapy Unit is extremely experienced in handling all sports related injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures, using advanced techniques and methods such as shockwave therapy. If you’ve been experiencing pain due to exercise or sport, book an appointment today with our Physiotherapy team, in order to begin your rehabilitation process.

Finally, if you missed out on the London Marathon Ballot for 2020, make sure you visit our Hospice’s website and email challenges@hje.org.uk, as we still have charity places available where you can run and raise money for St John’s Hospice!  We also have charity places for many other events, which help to raise vital money for the Hospice.

If you were lucky enough to get a spot in the ballot and still want to support the charity – you can still fundraise for the hospice! Just email challenges@hje.org.uk. All charity runners receive our wonderful benefits:

–          A dedicated contact who will support you on a one to one level all the way,

–          A tailored fundraising pack with lots of tips, running and advice and sponsorship forms,

–          A high quality running vest,

–          Regular e-newsletters,

–          Support from our cheering squad at cheer points along the route

–          A meet and greet point before the event!

Do get in touch if you want to challenge yourself for a great cause in 2020!

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