Shin is formed by the muscles of the lower leg along with the tibial bone. It includes the tibia, tibialis anterior muscle, gastronemius, soleus, extensor digitorum longus, and extensor hallucis longus and fibularis muscle. These are the main muscles that are actively involved in running and walking. It is common to get shin splints in athletes and body builders due to excessive use or stress on the muscles.
It leads to a painful condition where there is inflammation of the sheath surrounding the tibial bone. When this condition is left untreated, it can lead to fractures of tibial bone1 which is known as shin splints. Therefore, it becomes important to strengthen the shins and avoid excessive exertion or stress on them.
How Do You Stretch Your Shins?
The main muscle involved in flexing the foot as well as controlling the foot is the tibialis anterior muscle. If there is pain and tightness of shin muscles it is advised to stretch the tibialis anterior muscle. It occupies the front of the leg and it mostly gets a workout while running and walking and in rigorous sports such as tennis and basketball that involve a lot of little sprints. But it should not be stressed enough to the point of developing painful shin splints. It can happen when you suddenly increase the work load on the muscle with little or no rest.
Anterior Tibialis2 Shin Stretch
It is not easy to stretch the shin muscles fully due to their anatomical arrangement. It can only be elongated up to some level. The first exercise is the standing stretch or the standing anterior tibialis shin stretch. It is also known as the toe drag stretch where you stand up with both knees bent slightly. You can also use a hand on a wall for balance or other support. With one foot squarely on the ground, the foot to be stretched is placed behind the stable foot and its toe touching the ground. With the toe firmly on the ground to pull the stretching leg forward and you will feel a stretch from the top of the stretching foot to the shins; you hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat it with the other foot as well. It can be done as a routine warm up at any time of the day.
Kneeling Shin Stretch
The next is the kneeling shin stretch which gently stretches the shins. In this good knee flexion is required when sitting on the heels. You can kneel down on a mat with the top of feet flat on the floor and the buttocks rest over your heels and hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds.
Seated Shin Stretch
The other stretching exercise is the seated shin stretch which can be done on a desk chair and it gently stretches the tibialis anterior muscle. While seated on a chair you drop your knee towards the ground and the toe is extended into the ground as done in standing stretch and this position is held for 15 to 20 seconds. This stretch can be done several times a day and alternately for both the feet.
Lying Shin Stretch
The next is the lying shin stretch which is similar to the lying quadriceps stretch. In this you need to lie on your side with the knee bent on the upper leg with the foot behind your back. Then reach back and grab your forefoot with your hand while pulling it towards the back. Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat for both the feet alternatively.
Along with the stretches there are exercises that can help strengthen the shin muscles and provide relief in shin splints.3 They can be done easily at home without supervision but with care. These exercises not only target the anterior tibialis, but the entire calves, foot and ankle. They help in improving their flexibility and help prevent shin splints.
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