Fitness is a priority at every base in the Air Force and in every career field. Because most Airmen incorporate running into workouts, it is important to protect against shin splints.
According to WebMD.com, whether you jog daily or sprint to catch a bus, you are at risk for medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints.
“Shin splints are very common,” said Dr. Laura Martin, WebMD writer. “They can be caused by sudden increases in mileage, walking uphill, overtraining, walking faster than normal, jumping, running stairs or just too much distance.”
Shin splints can either be medial or lateral, Martin said.
“Medial shin splints are often caused by excessive pronation or flat feet, “she said. “Running, tennis, volleyball and other weight-bearing activities are also causes.”
On the other hand, lateral shin splints are usually caused from overuse, Dr. Martin said.
“People frequently get anterior shin splints (lateral) from the repetition of flexing the muscle,” she said. “For instance, on the treadmill, if you walk fast enough, and for long enough, or if you suddenly increase the speed, or you’re walking on an elevation, the muscle gets overworked and starts to cramp. It would be like doing hundreds of bicep curls until your arm started to cramp.”
Rest, massage, ice, stretching and strengthening are all treatments for shin splints, Dr. Martin said.
“Rest and ice is sometimes the best treatment,” she said. “Also make sure your shoes are sturdy and give lots of support, particularly in the arch. If your shins hurt, gently massage them and then ice them after you work out.”
Shin splints can often be confused with other things, like cramping of the anterior tibialis or stress fractures.
“Cramping of the anterior tibialis muscle usually occurs from the constant repetition of flexing the foot,” Dr. Martin said. “Some people with anterior tibialis muscle cramping report that running is not as bad as walking. This is most likely due to the fact that during walking you take more steps than when you run. When you run your stride is longer and your feet are in the air for a longer period of time, which gives the food a break from the constant contractions.”
According to Dr. Aimee Hachigian-Gould, WebMD editor, stress fractures are tiny breaks in the bone usually caused by repetitive stress from activities like running.
“Although stress fractures can be quite painful, they usually heal themselves if rested for a few months,” she said. “They are much more likely to develop in people who have just started a new exercise or abruptly stepped up the intensity of their work out.”
Just like flat feet and worn-out running shoes are common causes of shin splints, they also raise the risk of stress fractures, Dr. Hachigian-Gould said.
“Unfortunately, stress fractures tend to recur,” she said. “About 60 percent of people who have a stress fracture have also had one previously.”