Forum: Irish / Irish - Technique & Training

Page 1 of 3: 1 2 3
A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints (karma: 14)
By twinkle_toes__
On Sun Jul 08, 2007 07:38 PM
Edited by twinkle_toes__ (169690) on 2007-07-08 19:39:23 html issues
Edited by twinkle_toes__ (169690) on 2007-07-08 19:40:02 more issues
Edited by twinkle_toes__ (169690) on 2007-07-08 19:41:17 and more
Edited by twinkle_toes__ (169690) on 2007-07-08 20:39:59 added something
Made sticky by Theresa (28613) on 2007-07-11 19:10:08

Hi everyone! I've always had awful shin splints and finally went to the doctor about it a couple months back. I've noticed that a lot of of people have shin splints, too on here so I thought I'd share what worked for me. All the things on here have been told to me by a doctor, sports med doc, physical therapist, physical therapy assistnat, or pharmacist unless I note it with a ***** and the source in parentheses. Feel free to add your own advice! Hopefully this will help other people suffering from the id-shin-splints curse.

What are Shin Splints?

Shin Splints is a common term used to refer to shin pain. The kind irish dancers would most often get, an overworked posterior tibialis, is caused by turnout, staying up on toes, impact, and tight muscles, especially in the calves! As soon as I demonstrated ID to my doctor and therapist, they saw that the posterior tibialis was taking a beating. Basically, the posterior tib. is a small muscle that runs along the inside of the shin bone. The anterior tibialis, which flexes feet (basically the opposite) runs along the outside, and is the most common issue for runners and other athletes with shin pain.
Of course, your shin pain isn't necessarily the posterior tib., but with our style of dance, it most likely is!


This doesn't mean you have to quit dance for a whole month. Taking a week or two off will give your shins time to recover and is well worth the wait! Look for a time in between feiseanna and performance, when your absense won't be the end of the world, and let your teacher know that you'll be gone that week to rest your shins. You'll feel much better when you return!

Spread it out!

Dancing three hours on one day is sure to kill your shins. Look for a way to spread out your classes. If your shins have been bothering you a lot, try to dance no more than an hour a day, and allow yourself a full 24 to 48 hours inbetween. These small breaks will allow your shins to recover without making you take too much time off dance. If you have a block of two to three classes on one day, talk to your teacher and see if you can temporarily switch one of those classes to a different day. (You may end up entering a class that's a level higher or lower than your own. I've had to do this - you'll either be an "example" or you'll have to flexible and attentive, neither of which are harmful to you! ) If you can't switch your classes around, go to class and only dance for an hour, watching the rest. Never underestimate how much you can learn by watching and listening.

Ice is Your Friend!

Icing your shins will work miracles! Get some ice packs (I use NorCo professional, we got it at the physical therapists, though any sort will do) and plant yourself on the couch for 20 minutes. Wrap the packs around your shins and your calfs, if they're large enough - your calfs being tight and irritated will worsen your shin splints, so it's a good idea to ice them too while you're at it! Numb legs are a good sign, it means the ice is working.
Also try an ice massage. Take a little dixie cup, fill it with water, and put it in the freezer overnight (take it out any sooner and water pockets will spill all over your legs!) After it's frozen solid all the way through, take it out and tear off the top so the ice is sticking out. Rub whereever it hurts with the ice, directly on your skin. Some burning and aching is normal. If you want extra cold, keep a towel by you and alternate rubbing and dabbing with the towel - this will keep the water from forming a protective layer and will give you maximum iciness. Rub until the area goes numb, continue for another minute or two, and stop. This works much quicker that the cold packs, but covers a smaller area.

Walk Like a Normal Person

All right, how many of us walk around turned out? Or on our toes? If you do, you could be putting strain on the posterior tib even when you're not dancing. Walk with your feet facing forward (yes, zero turnout). Always. You will feel like a penguin, but you'll be a happy penguin without shin pain. And don't even think or walking or running on your toes! It takes a concious effort, but your shins will really appreciate the break!

Look at Your Shoes

And I don't mean your dance shoes (although dance sneakers can help lesson the pounding in class :) ). Your shins get enough impact in class, so it's time to give them a break. Those super flat ballerina-shoes may be cute, but they're not going to absorb enough shock. Get yourself a pair of tennis shoes and wear them. Consider getting fitted for a good pair of running shoes. You don't have to run to wear them. The dude at a running shop in town told me he always sees nurses and other people who work on their feet all day in the shop. A fitted shoe will give you amazing support, and will correct any overpronation or other eccentricites your feet have. If fancy shoes aren't in your future, get some walking shoes or cross trainers (New Balances are my favorite.)
Don't forget flip flops either. If you want to wear them, get some with cushioning (mine are all at least 3/4 in thick) and don't wear those cute little flat flip flops. And if you're going somewhere where you'll be walking a lot, leave the flip flops at home.

Adjust Your Cross-Training

If you've been out running to get in shape for dance, you may want to rethink your cross-training. If you're having issues with shin splints, aim for low-impact workouts like weightlifting, bike riding, and swimming. And if you do run, always do so in good running shoes on a softer surface. Asphalt or cement are more pain than they're worth. Find a soft trail, field, or a local high school track to run on.

Watch Out for Killer Floors

They will eat your shins alive! NEVER dance on concrete. NEVER dance on tile. And that carpet may look nice and cushy, but there could be concrete an inch below the surface! Most dance school have well-padded floors, but your house, your garage, or those shiny supermarket floors may not. Always know what kind of floor you're dancing on. One step on concrete could jolt your shins into more pain.

It's nearly impossible to get a good stretch on the posterior tib. without breaking your ankle, so stretch the muscles surrounding it to take the pressure off. Tight calves can make shin splints work. Try these stretches. Each should be held for 30 seconds and be stretched 3-5 times.

The Wall Stretch
Find a wall or other stable object to help keep your balance. Put your hands on the wall and put one foot in front of the other, almost like your in a lunge. Keep your back leg straight, front leg bent, and lean forward into the wall. Be sure to keep both feet completely on the ground or you won't feel a stretch. If you still don't feel a stretch, stretch your solius (below) and move on to the towel stretch.
Now bend your back leg slightly and do the same. This will stretch the solius, the muscle under the big calf muscle. Stretch with your feet facing forward, then put your back foot slightly turned in, and very slightly turned out to get a complete stretch. You should especially feel a stretch down by the achilles.

The Towel Stretch
Roll up a towel and lie on your back. Keep one leg on the ground and loop the towel around the ball of your other foot. Keeping both legs straight, pull the towel toward your face. This is a more intense calf stretch. Your foot should be flexed and your legs should form an angle. Don't feel like you need to pull too far. Pull until you feel a good stretch and sure to keep both hips facing forward and on the ground. Don't focus on how close your foot is to your face, focus more on getting a good stretch. If you still don't feel a stretch, move on to the Towel Stretch Minus the Towel.

Towel Stretch Minus the Towel
Only do this stretch if you have your splits and your calves are fairly loose. Lie on the ground like before. Keeping one leg on the ground, extend the other up to your face, holding behind your calf. Use one hand to press the ball of your foot down into a flex, while using the other behind your leg for support. If your hips go uneven or lift off the ground, go back to the Towel Stretch. You need to keep good form to get a good stretch.

To Wrap or Not to Wrap

Wrapping can really help take the pressure off the posterior tib., but only if you do it right. There are lots of different ways to wrap, lots of different tapes, and lots of things that can go wrong if you don't know how to do it. If you want to wrap your legs, you need to see a doctor or physical therapist and have them show you how. Don't attempt to wrap if you haven't been shown how to, and if a doctor hasn't ok-ed it for your case.
Ace-Bandages are an easy, common wrapping, but they too require experience to keep from cutting off your circulation, and they won't have as much of an effect as other wrapping techniques. I've found that, in general, they're either too tight and make your calfs cramp up, or they're too loose and they won't give you much support. Plus, they don't target the posterior tib.
***For light support, here's what I do. (source: my experience) Put your poodle socks in the dryer for 15 minutes before you go to class to shrink them up a bit. When you wear them, they'll be just snug enough to give you a bit of support, and they help keep your muscles warm.***

Can I Strengthen the Posterior Tib?

The posterior tib isn't like other muscles - it'll never get as big and strong as your calves or quads! It can however gradually become stronger. Dancing will strengthen it but may overdo it. And NEVER try strengthening your shins until they start to feel better!!!!! Here's some exercises my therapist had me do:

The Pilates Machine - Practice jumping on the pilates machine, the machine you lay on and push off the end. By setting a resistance less than your weight, you can work the tib without straining it.

Squats With Wobbles - You'll need wobble disks for this one. Place the disks a little more than shoulder length apart. With your feet VERY SLIGHTLY turned out, do some mim-squats, not letting the knees go past your toes to avoid straining your knees.

Sumo With Wobbles - Use the same disk set up. Go into a mini squat but when you come up, lift one leg off its disk like a sumo wrestler. Put it back down, go into a squat, and repeat on the other side. (The wobbles are the main component of these exercises - by making you balance, they work the lower leg muscles.)

Wobble Lunges - Spread out the disks a little and approach them from the side. Step onto the one closest to you and then onto the other. Do a mini lunge, then push off the front foot and return to your starting spot, with the disks in their line in front of you. Repeat on the other side.

Pain Relief

When you can't avoid dancing, try ib profen to stop the pain and the inflammation in your muscles. Be sure to start with the absolute minimum amount, and avoid Aspirin, it's more likely to upset your stomach. To avoid any stomach upset, especially before dancing, take ib profen with a large glass of milk or a small, bland meal. And never take it with citris, spagetti sauce, soda, garlic, chocolate, or any other acidic food.

Tylonel can be used with the ib profen and it will help relieve pain, although it won't specifically target your muscles like the IB profen. Be careful with your dosing - acetemeniphen, the active ingredient of Tylenol, is easily overdosed on because of "super strength" pills. Find your weight in kgs by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.4 . Multiply the kg by 10, and thats the MAXIMUM dose in mgs that you should take. If you're taking other medicines, especially pain relievers, make sure they don't contain acetomeniphen either!


Doctors and Therapists are NOT Out to End Your Dancing!

I avoided going to the doctor for AGES, because I was afraid they would tell me to stop dancing. But it's really the opposite. Especially with sports med doctors and physical therapists. They're used to working with athletes, they know how much you want to "get back in the game", and they know how to get you there the fastest! If you have any concerns about your shins, or just want to be on the safe side (which is ALWAYS a good idea), I urge you to see a doctor! Physical therapy works wonders as well, and a therapist can pinpoint your issues and come up with a plan best suited to you. A bad case of shin splints can turn into stress fractures on your bone, so always be careful!
You should be especially concerned if you notice:
1. Shin pain wakes you up during the night
2. You find yourself limping more than a day after dancing.

So, that's my advice! Once again, please add if you have any tips or experiences, and always cite where you got the information!

52 Replies to A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints

re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By Yvonnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Jul 08, 2007 07:57 PM
can you say sticky?
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By aealoveshergirlsPremium member
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 06:17 AM
Thank you so much for posting this. I suffer horribly from shin splints and this was very helpful. I also gave you Karma because I thought this was well thought out and informative. Thank you!!!!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By aealoveshergirlsPremium member
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 06:20 AM
Oh, I forgot to ask, what are these disc exercises and where do I buy the disc? Do you have a linky?
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By twinkle_toes__
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:38 PM
Here's what they look like, I've only used them in the pt's office so I don't know where to find a good price or anything. This is a photo from Amazon called a "balance disk". It's pretty much a squishy disk that's hard to stand on.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By Ballet_Chic01
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:50 PM
Good post!! Im a ballet dancer and a lot of our really intense Allegro can give me KILLER shin splints lol. Some of the info helped except i seriously couldn't walk without my feet turned out lol! andi couldn't even think of resting them either!!! lol oh well i guess i just have to put up with them.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By WaLtOn_cHiCkmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:06 PM
That was fabulous Thankyou so much for that! Most of it I have heard before as I have had shin splints for a while but it's good to know that other people use the same techniques (hopefully it means something is working)!!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By TwinPeakesmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Jul 10, 2007 03:16 AM
VERY helpful....MAKE A STICKY!

im suffering with shin splint now, and they're sooo painful....but i've learnt a few good tips :D
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By twinkle_toes__
On Tue Jul 10, 2007 01:31 PM
I'm not really sure how to make something sticky, do you message the mods or something?
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By peanut33
On Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:05 PM
Do shin splints last forever? Cos I've had shin splints for close to three months now, and no amount of icing/stretching has helped. It goes and comes... sometimes it's really bad, and other times it's just annoying. I can generally walk though the day after dance/right after class... but sometimes I get so frustrated that it's not going away...
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By twinkle_toes__
On Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:09 PM
No, they can go away. The sports med doctor told me that some people do get them easier than others though - I think I'm one of those lucky people!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By TaoknitterPremium member
On Tue Sep 18, 2007 08:04 PM
Shin splints do not have to be a chronic problem!

Another resource here: . . .
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By tracy16member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Sep 23, 2007 07:01 PM
I truly want to thank you for posting this information!! I have EXTREMELY horribly bad shin splint. I've had to leave dance classes before because i was in so much pain. I'm going to a doctor soon and then on to a physical therapists. thank you thank you thank you!!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By tracy16member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Sep 23, 2007 07:04 PM
I truly want to thank you for posting this information!! I have EXTREMELY horribly bad shin splint. I've had to leave dance classes before because i was in so much pain. I'm going to a doctor soon and then on to a physical therapists. thank you thank you thank you!!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By tipharahPremium member
On Sat Dec 01, 2007 12:57 PM
Thank You for such an informative and well written post. I get the worst shin splints during our busiest dance season. This sticky I will use alot.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By irishswimom
On Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:50 PM
Excellent information! We have a few dancers dealing with shin splints at our school now. Me, being one of them! We had a trainer come to class over the summer and discuss shin splints and different ways to work them out and to avoid them. Your info. was spot on.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By stepdancer2010
On Fri Jan 11, 2008 07:58 PM
Shin splints is when your interosteous membrane in your leg tears. The worst thing you can do is to ice it, take meds and keep dancing. That will only tear the membrane further. The only the way it will heal is if you tape your leg so that the edges of the tear are forced together and they can mend. The way you wrap your led is by placing one horizontal ring of tape around your calf tighly, but not too tight. You then overlap the next ring and go the legnth of your shin. I learned this in my anatomy and phys class. I hope it helps!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By aerlyn02
On Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:58 AM
Great guide! Since dance is a mainly anaerobic activity, many dancers train aerobically outside the studio. Of course, some cross-training activities are better than others and over-training can cause fatigue and increase the risk for musculoskeletal injuries. In general I suggest lower-impact cardio activities such as using a rowing machine, exercise bike, walking on a treadmill or elliptical. Somatics practices such as Pilates and Yoga are also very complementary to dance fitness. Moderate to light weight-lifting once or twice a week is also a great way to maintain muscular strength and increase bone mass.

I know many dancers who run as cross-training, and I wrote an article addressing the question of running for dancers. You can read it here on my blog, "A Dancer's Health." Please visit my blog at
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By twinkle_toes__
On Sat Mar 15, 2008 08:21 PM

This for the sort of shin splints with an over-worked posterior tib. Since "shin splints" is a general term for shin pain. There can be other things wrong that can fall under the same general label.

If anyone has the kind that Stepdancer is talking about, go to the doctor! This guide is ONLY for the posterior tib.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By stepdancer2010
On Mon Mar 17, 2008 06:32 PM
Thanks for the help Twinkletoes. Like i said it's just what i was told in class. sorry for any misinformation! I'm Glad someone knows their stuff! :D
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By irishdancer92
On Tue Apr 22, 2008 07:17 PM
onw word KARMA!!!! thank you so much, i had such bad shin splints of sunday ( probably cause i had two hours and 15 minutes of dance on saturday, and another hour on sunday) and its rly helped me understand how to deal with them!!! thank you!!!!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By sexyirishdancermember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:22 PM
This is a great post! I have terrible shin splints, and one of the things that helps me is to have my mom massage my calf muscles, and then soak them in the bath tub. It really helps loosen the muscles and relieves quite a bit of pain.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By Kitrimember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Wed Apr 23, 2008 12:07 AM
Thank you soooo much! This is exactly what I´ve been looking for!
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By aealoveshergirlsPremium member
On Wed Apr 23, 2008 04:56 AM
I wanted to let you know that I almost have my shin splints under control. I started by going to P.T. 3 times a week for 2 months, it did absolutly nothing, in fact, there were times I left P.T. and developed horrible shooting pains that night. So, I stopped going. Then I decided to try dieting. I lost 30 pounds and that made a huge difference, but it wasn't the only solution. I began dancing every day in my basement. I found that I get sore quicker with soft shoe rather than hard shoe. My solution was, I stopped doing such hard workouts. I used to do 5 of every dance I knew for my workout. I cut back to 3 of every dance and I broke up soft shoe one night and hard shoe the next. I also started drinking a ton of water, I think that helped, and eating tons of bananas. Don't get me wrong, I'm not "cured", however, I'm able to make it through all my classes and practices now without pain. However, I'm still extremely sensitive on both my legs, if anything, and I mean anything, paper, soft toy or even a touch on my shins makes me cringe. I don't know that that will ever go away, but for now, at least I'm happy.
re: A Guide to Dealing With Shin Splints
By dancinghobbit
On Sun Apr 27, 2008 08:36 PM
Thank you! Someone posted an exercise which wiped away my prolonged shin splints issue: walking around (on a padded surface) on your heels a few minutes a day. That worked like magic.
Page 1 of 3: 1 2 3


Powered by XP Experience Server.
Copyright ©1999-2020 XP.COM, LLC. All Rights Reserved.