How to Eliminate Shin Splints – for Everyone Tired of Hearing “Maybe You Should Try Swimming”

Have you ever tried to start running regularly, only to be stopped by sharp stabbing pain in your shins? Every step can feel like shards of glass breaking into your soft tissue, or maybe you feel like your bones are about to break. If you’ve experienced what I’m talking about then you know how frustratingly painful shin splints are.

You don’t have to suffer through shin splints in order to become (or stay) a runner.

A lot of you know about the knee pain that stopped me from running for 8 years and hiking for 6, but it actually started with shin splints.

I was 16, had stopped doing gymnastics and took up running. I loved the freedom and strength I felt during and after a nice long run. Pretty soon after I started running regularly I experienced that stabbing pain in my shins. Being stubborn and someone with a high pain tolerance, I just kept running. Eventually the shin splints went away; but I ended up with horrific knee pain a year later. This new pain was something I couldn’t ignore. Sharp stabbing pain literally brought me to my knees, and there was no way to run through that.

I now know these two things were connected, and had I taken care of the shin splints like I’m about to show you how – I never would have experienced such debilitating knee pain and I could have kept running and hiking all those years.

What are shin splints?

Medically speaking, shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome) is considered an overuse issue specifically from running and often from running on hard surfaces like pavement.

They tell us you’re at risk if:

  • you’re a runner or just beginning a running program
  • you change the duration, length or frequency of your running
  • you’re in the military
  • have high or flat arches
  • etc

Then there’s a laundry list of ways to “manage” the pain, such as:

  • have your running gait analyzed
  • buy shoes with more support/cushion
  • try inserts with shock absorption
  • lessen the impact of your activities by adding things like swimming and biking and
  • do more strength training…

But NONE of the above address the actual CAUSE of shin splints.

Besides, if you love running and you just wanna be out there pounding pavement or miles of dirt…you don’t want to hear things like “try swimming instead.” Right?

I’m here to tell you, you can run to your heart’s content SO LONG AS you address the CAUSE of your shin splints. And – it’s fairly EASY once you “get” it.

So what causes shin splints?

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What to Do For ‘Pulled’ Muscles or Strains – and How to Prevent Them!

Have you ever been playing a sport or doing your favorite activity when suddenly a muscle goes into spasm and quite literally “grabs” your attention and steals your movement mojo?

If so then you know what it’s like to experience a muscle strain, or “pulled” muscle.

There is one thing you absolutely MUST do to recover quickly – and one thing you must NOT do.

I’ll get to those in a moment.

First, it’s important to understand WHY strains happen, because – while I am sure some of you are here and currently experiencing a strain or pulled muscle – I am hoping the rest of you will use this information to prevent this from happening in the first place (can we make prevention sexy please?!)

In order to understand why and how a strain happens, we have to understand how muscles work.

Reciprocal inhibition – the key to understanding muscles and injury recovery/prevention!

I’ve had my eye on this process for over 5 years as a guiding touchstone for how to help people in pain and it’s never failed me. I’ll certainly do an entire episode dedicated to just this because the topic seems sorely lacking in the field of pain relief and injury recovery/prevention; but for now we’ll explore it in relationship to strains and pulled muscles.

Reciprocal inhibition is a process by which opposing muscle groups (and the nerves that act on them) work synergistically on a joint: one group flexes that joint while the other extends it.

In order for one muscle or group to contract, the opposing muscle or group MUST relax and stretch.

The simplest example of this is: when you contract your hamstrings your quad has to stretch and relax, right? The opposite is true as well: in order to stretch the quads, the hamstring must contract. (Think of a standing quad stretch).

How this relates to muscle strains:

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How Our Daily Habits Shape Our Fascia and Make us Prone to Certain Injuries

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What we do with the majority of our days has the greatest impact on the SHAPE and QUALITY of our fascia.

Fascia is meant to be nearly impervious to change. We have more fascia in our bodies than anything else, and it’s the tissue that both separates and connects every separate substance inside of us. If fascia were easily changeable we’d be in big trouble!

This is both good and bad news for us.

It means we can rest assured we won’t bruise like crazy or fall apart if we merely bump into things, and whatever we do with our days will have only minimal impact in small doses.

It also means that fascia will only change dramatically through habitual repetition/correction of certain movements and positions, OR by applying enough compression to the fascial system and asking the fascia to change itself (this is what I do in my private practice).

The seemingly insignificant everyday movements and positions we take as we sit, stand, sleep, play sports etc have the greatest effect on the shape of our fascia because we do these things for decades.

These are the things I’m always looking for in my private practice when working with clients to figure out exactly what may be causing whatever pain they’re experiencing; and YOU can do the same type of detective work for yourself.

For example:

If someone comes in with low back pain, it’s not enough (long term) to simply release key areas of fascia if they are partially or wholly creating their low back pain pattern with their habits (unless they want to become a weekly client of mine, which some do). In order to permanently reverse the pattern some of these habits need to be corrected.

Much of the time with people who come to me for low back pain relief there are anywhere from one to five or more daily habits that are contributing, such as leaning on one leg (say the left), holding their kids on that hip, a habit of sitting with that leg bent and it’s summer and during every mountainous hike they use that leg to step up onto rocks since it’s the strong one.

This is a common pattern I see in many of my clients, and all of this left leg dominance (or RIGHT leg) can lead to low back pain, knee pain, hip issues, foot issues and more.

There are TONS of these tiny habits to consider, and I’m not going to name them all or we’d be here all day. Please watch the video for specific examples of what to watch out for in YOUR life!

This post and video are meant to spark your curiosity about YOUR daily habits in life and activities.

The more you pay attention, the wiser you’ll be when it comes to whatever pain you may be prone to and how to reverse or prevent it.

Some of these habits are easier to change than others.

GREAT news for athletes:

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