Exercise Tip for Baby Boomers: How to Avoid Shin Splints

I remember the first time shin splints paid me a visit!  It was my first morning in Sydney, Australia, after having just spent 24 hours on a plane flying in from Washington DC.  The air was crisp and clear, the harbor was sparkling in the sunshine and I was jogging excitedly in one of my favorite areas of the city.  It felt like I could run forever.  But then I started feeling a pain in my shins and before long I was hobbling back to the hotel.  If you’ve ever experienced shin splints, you know how that felt and what the next day was like!

What are shin splints? 
Shin splints involve small tears in the muscle fibers or connective tissue along the tibia (the inner/larger leg bone of the lower leg). The pain resides over a long area. (Note that pain in a specific place may indicate a stress fracture of the bone rather than shin splints.) Shin splints may result from an imbalance between the strong muscles in the back of the leg and the weak muscles in the front of the leg. If in doubt about the injury, consult a physician.

The following are some ways to help prevent shin splints or recover from them:

* Check your shoes. Shoes should have good arch support and overall cushioning. Replace running and walking shoes every 400 to 500 miles or every six to eight months.

* Walk on your heels. This exercise will help you to build muscle in the front part of your lower leg. Take long steps until your shins begin to burn. Gradually increase the length of the time you can walk this way without feeling the burn. Do this daily.

* Ice cups. Freeze water in a paper cup, peel back the top, and moisten the ice with water and rub over the injury. Do this for five to seven minutes/four to six times a day.

* Switch exercises. Choose a low-impact activity while you are healing.

* Change exercise surfaces. Run or walk on a soft but level surface. The shin splints should improve within two weeks.

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