Thursday, December 2, 2010

Overcoming Shinsplints With Exercise

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shinsplints)
Shinsplints are a pain, and more annoying than almost anything when it comes to running inconvenience.  Shinsplints kept me from going out for cross country in High School, and for years stopped my running attempts within a few weeks of starting.  If you've ever had shinsplints, you know what I'm talking about.  

Shinsplints are a pain developed in the shin area and usually surfaces after exercise or other jumping, running or dancing-like activity.  Through the years I've tried everything - different running shoes, orthodics, inserts, etc.  I remember when the Nike Air shoe for running first came on the market, I thought it was going to solve my problem - but with no success.  I went through a spell of swing dancing for 3 hours (every night!!) in the late 1990s, and that created shin problems for me, even with the "right" dance shoe and inserts.  I had all but given up.  

However, I did find some relief at one point in my training past.  I once trained at a fairly up-to-date gym but for some reason they kept an ancient leg curl machine.  It was horrible - it looked like a medical exam table with the padded bar attached to the end and a cable going to a weight stack.  However, the padded bar was located in a position favorable for doing toe-lifts by hooking the tops of your feet under it while sitting on the table and pulling it towards your chest.  It didn't seem like much, but over the course of time I noticed the pain in my shins diminished.  

Some time later my friend John Alvino gifted me with a device for ankle rehabilitation.  I use it for doing weighted toe-lifts.  I haven't changed the weight on it in 10 years, and it works like a champ.  It's called a Dynamic Radial Resistance Device (D.A.R.D.), and available from Amazon for less than the price of a decent running shoe.  

I set it up so that my heels are positioned at the edge of an elevated surface (like a STEP on 2 spacers), and just begin pulling the weight up (as shown) for about 15-25 reps of 3 sets.  I do this twice a week when I do hamstrings.  

The picture on the left shows the starting position and the right shows the mid-point position.  

I've heard you can simulate this movement with an empty paint bucket weighted accordingly, and toe lifting it while your leg dangles from a high seat (I've never tried but it doesn't sound especially appealing).

The other exercise I use is the seated calf raise with toes pointed inwards.  I do this to balance the development of the anterior tibialis (target muscle of above exercise).  It is also good training for your pushoff, but I'll blog more on that in a future article on what I've learned on generating power.

Thanks for listening.

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