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How to Prevent and Heal Shin Splits

shin split, Legs and SunAs anyone who has had them will tell you, shin splints are painful and persistent. They are caused when your shin muscle (anterior tibialis) tears away from the bone (tibia), and is the most common running injury, representing up to 60% of all overuse injuries to the lower leg.[1] If the true cause is not treated, you are at risk of developing more serious conditions such as plantar fasciitis (tearing of the connective tissue of the bottom of the foot) and stress fractures (small cracks in the bone).

Traditional treatment includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, orthotics, range of motion exercise, a neoprene sleeve, and standard physical therapy. But after three decades of treating runners who tried all these methods, I discovered that symptoms might abate for a while if you don’t stress your leg. Inevitably, as you increase the stress on your leg, the symptoms return or some other problem develops.

I was involved with running studies with Arizona State University and Olympic long distant runners, and we discovered two key points in preventing shin splints from recurring. First, we need to realign the runner’s body. If their foot was landing improperly because of torsion in the hip, the hip and thigh need releasing. Second, the client had to change what caused the problem in the first place: their stride.

After Rolfing hundreds of runners, many of them elite athletes, I never saw one who had a natural stride. It seems that in this country, after puberty, we start leaning back when we walk or run, causing our stride to go out in front of us. This is unnatural and can be catastrophic to the human body.

You are welcome to download a free book on Natural Running (and walking) at www.align.org. Learning to move your legs and body as intended can alleviate shin splints and other running injuries. Many Olympic runners have told me that what they were taught as running gospel not only didn’t help them, it made them worse. The simple premise of leaning into gravity propelled them to set new records without injuries.

Realize that your body will continue to adapt to pain and injury until it can’t any longer. By then there is a good chance there are several co-causes to your lingering issue, be it shin splints or back pain. Shifting the load to another body part might feel like it works for a while, but what it’s really doing is creating more problems. All my clients who needed hip replacements had a cascade of soft tissue and structural issues for years. They all wished they were more aggressive in treating the primary causes. Please do what you need to now, while you can.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advanced Rolfer, www.align.org – call if you have questions: 265.8440. This article and many more health and wellness articles are at the blog: www.sandpointwellnesscouncil.com.

[1] http://shinsplints.wikispaces.com/Classification+and+Prevalence

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