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Ask an Exercise Physiologist: Shin splints and exercising with depression

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Ask an EP is here to help with all your health and wellness questions and challenges: Lifestyle. Wellness. Pain. Health.

Do you have a burning health and wellness question?

Now is your chance. We only have two weeks of questions left until we take a break for the festive season!

Every week we will pick a couple of questions, and help you solve your burning query. If we share our problems, we are more likely to solve them.

Let’s get started.

“My mental health has deteriorated this year. It was happening before lockdown, but the restrictions have amplified my depression.

I know exercise is beneficial for your mental health, but I don’t know where to start. I have nil motivation. Any suggestions to get started again?”

– Katie, 38

Answered by Kayla Bonney, Exercise Physiologist

I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with motivation and mental health concerns, they can definitely be challenging. Fortunately, you are not alone and I have seen many of my patients going through the same thing this year!

There is scientific evidence to suggest that exercise can help to alleviate symptoms of depression and may be useful in the treatment of mild to moderate major depressive disorder.

My first suggestion would be to establish a good support system around you (ie family, friends, health professionals etc) who can help you stay accountable and can even be your exercise buddy!

Of course, consult your GP at any time if you find your symptoms to be severe, or if you think you could benefit from psychology and/or pharmacology to further assist getting you on your feet again!

Some more tips to get started:

  1. Make a ‘weekly plan’ at the start of the week and set yourself some small and realistic movement goals. Make the commitment to yourself to honour the plan and have the time set out as though it was an appointment with yourself.
  2. Try to get up and move your body in the morning before your brain has time to convince you otherwise! Lay out your clothes the night before so you don’t have to think about anything in the morning and get out the door/into your exercise space before you have time to change your mind!
  3. Celebrate every tiny victory. Battling mental health can be extremely challenging and it can seem easier to just stay inside and avoid activity all together. However, any little incidental movement (eg. walking around the grocery store, lifting the clothes to the washing line) is worth celebrating and you should allow yourself to feel achievement in whatever movement you can muster on any particular day.
  4. One positive to come out of the pandemic is that exercise classes have become much more accessible for all at home. I know lots of yoga studios and allied health businesses have online exercise classes either live or pre-recorded on Youtube. For example, Capital Hydrotherapy home exercise videos can be found here.

I hope you are feeling better soon and can start to find a type of exercise that you enjoy and actually look forward to doing. Remember to take care of yourself, take the expectations out of it and just move your body mindfully and intuitively.

Love, Kayla

“Shin splints—help! I’m trying to get into running but flare-ups of shin splints (and my general distaste for running) keep getting in the way….any advice?”

– Alex, 24

Lucky for you Alex, runners shin splints is easily treated, if you’re smart about your rehabilitation.

Firstly, we need to figure out the cause, so you can prevent it from happening again!

Five important questions to consider are:

  • Has your running surface changed?
  • Have you increased your kms recently?
  • Do you need new shoes (or maybe orthotics need readjusting)?
  • Have you changed your training routine?
  • Do you have a quality lower limb strength program to keep you strong and stable?

Runners Shin splints (RSS) happen from overuse, mechanical weakness and poor running technique. Maybe it’s time for a running assessment.

Do you have a proper running plan, with a gradual increase of km’s? (and scheduled rest/recovery day?) Often, Shin splints result when muscles, tendons and bone tissue in the lower limb become overworked.

How to treat acute RSS? Address the five questions above! Then:

  • De-load your body (active recovery without too much load on the bone). It needs time to heal.
  • Ice your shin to ease pain and swelling (pop a plastic water bottle in the freezer, and roll it up and down your shin before & after a workout). I’d recommend this ice-massage technique for 10minutes every 1-2 hours after a workout, or until the pain is gone.
  • Wrap your shin in cling wrap and Voltaren to let the local anti-inflammatories do their work overnight!

Her Workout: Strengthen runner’s legs and hips

Here’s a 15 minute Her Legs Workout—you are welcome to add it to your strengthening ritual:

1) Lunge around the clock (to train your bone health to handle different direction of force)
2) Squat to press
3) Step up (watch your foot position and foot control)
4) Bridge holds with heel lift
5) Resisted crab walks (for strengthening and stability/control)

You can print the PDF here, and IGTV clip is dropping into Instagram later today. If you’re fit and healthy I’d recommend doing the five exercises 10-12 repetitions, and three sets.

If your shin pain is flared up, try for six repetitions, and 1-2 sets until the pain is under 2/10; three days a week.

Hope this information helps you find the right person to help you on your wellness journey.

Great questions everyone. I’ll answer more next week. Submit your question now to have it answered!

Want to ask your own question?

We are all better together! Do you have a burning health and wellness question?

Fill out our Google Form, or email us your health and wellbeing questions, to either: editor@hercanberra.com.au or kirra@capitalhydrotherapy.com.au.

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