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What's Causing Your Shin Splints? Physical Therapist Answers

We're at that time of the year when working out is oh so popular due to New Year's resolutions. The gyms are packed and it's hard to get a spot in your favorite class. Running is one of the most popular methods of losing weight and burning up that excess fat. On my way to work, I see a countless number of people out and about doing their morning run. It's a great form of exercise that requires nothing but some time and a good pair of running shoes. But if you're not doing giving your body the proper prep and after workout care, you might be hurting yourself.

So I'll start by asking a couple of things from any of you who are avid runners or looking to take up running: Stretch everything out before and after your run! Don't push any pain past its threshold and always ice. If you've managed to hurt yourself, please see a physical therapist about it. Shin splints in particular are something I see way too much and most of the time it could have been prevented with proper care.

Shin splints and some foot pains like neuromas are likely caused by hip misalignment and hip tightness as well as weakness at the foot, ankle, knee and hip. So if you're looking for the cause of your shin splints, you might need to look higher on your body.

Often you can find the cause of the problem by assessing gait and posture. Due to certain predispositions of tightness, people are unable to get proper hip extension or limb lengthening and push off. When this happens, the foot has to compensate and push off more or work harder. Therefore, there's an increase in foot and ankle rotation. The muscle called the posterior tibialis controls pronation of the foot otherwise known as the downward rotation of the big toe. In other words, the rotational force of the anterior and posterior tibialis is working hard to control all of these movements and will ultimately fail.

Another thing to watch out for is the size of your shoe. Biomechanically the toes need to splay out when the foot hits the ground to absorb and broaden the impact. If your shoe is too small, it will limit the amount of splaying your foot can do and decreases the ability of the foot intrinsic muscles to absorb the shock. What happens next? The force goes back up into the bones causing shin splints pain. So beware.

If it's too late and you're already experiencing symptoms of shin splints, one of my favorite things to do has been to use a massage gun to help re-balance the muscles involved. You can check out the video on how to do it below!

Hopefully, these tips keep you out of shin splint pain and on your way to keeping those New Year's resolutions!

Heal smarter, not harder!

Dr. Justin C. Lin


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