Alternative Exercises for Shin Splints

woman runner warm up outdoor
A woman is stretching her legs. (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)

Shin splints cause pain and tenderness along the inside edge of your tibia bone -- the large bone located in your lower leg. This condition is also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, and is often the result of participation in vigorous exercise or sports, including running, dancing and military training. There are plenty of alternative exercises you can complete as you heal, but make sure to get your doctor's approval first.

Footwear

If you participate in vigorous sports or exercise, there may be no need to stop training or to modify your activity levels. According to the Hughston Sports Medicine Foundation, the first thing an active individual should do is to correct predisposing factors, such as replacing worn out shoes that can lead to pain and injury in your lower extremities. Other factors that lead to shin splints include running on hard surfaces or pavement, and increasing your training levels too quickly. If you're a runner, switch to running on a track or treadmill until your pain subsides. When increasing your training levels, do so gradually over a three- to six-week period as opposed to all at once.

Cross-Training

Cross-training can help injured athletes and exercise participants maintain their current fitness levels and endurance without placing excessive stress on the lower leg bones. Low-impact exercises can include swimming, using an elliptical machine, water aerobics, walking or riding a stationary bike .These exercises should be performed five days per week for 30 minutes at a time in order to help maintain your fitness level. If you are looking to build upper body strength, seated or lying strength training is also acceptable.

Stretching

Stretch prior to working out to both treat and prevent shin splints. Exercising the front of your calves and engaging in dorsiflexion -- pointing the toes forward -- of the ankle with the use of resistance bands can help to increase strength and flexibility in your leg muscles in addition to preventing pain in your shins. Do calf strengthening exercises such as toe raises or standing wall stretches to help reduce muscular imbalances which can lead to shin splints. These exercises should make you feel a light stretch in the back of your calf muscle.

Considerations

Prior to resuming any type of training, severe shin splints may respond well to rest, icing, mild compression and anti-inflammatory medications. If you are permitted to participate in alternative exercises as you recover from shin splints, never exercise to the point where you are experiencing pain. If you experience pain, discontinue exercising and consult your doctor.

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