Shin splints can be painful for Irish dancersPhoto: Flickr user Jos Dielis
Every Irish dancer complains of shin splints at one time or another. This painful injury, characterized by pain, and sometimes swelling in the front part of the lower leg, is common among those adult Irish dancers who have just begun taking lessons. 

So what are shin splints, and what can Irish dancers do if this painful injury happens to them? 

Dr. Jack Giangiulio, D.C., from Newport Beach, California shares his expert advice on shin splints.  As a Dance Specialist, Dr. Jack tours with dance companies around the globe, preparing and treating their dancers backstage.

What are shin splints? 
Dancers get shin splints from either under-training or over-training, especially if they have poor foot control.” says Dr. Jack.  He explains that a shin splint is a sprain, strain or spasm of the tibialis anterior or posterior muscle of the leg which causes tendinitis in the muscle. 

The tibialis anterior muscle lifts the foot up and points the foot inwards.  All dancers use this muscle for balance, but Dr. Jack explains that Irish dancers use this muscle more extensively.

“Irish dancers use it for both balance and ballistic strength (the quick repetitive lifting of the foot).” Dr. Jack says. “These muscles, if not kept in a healthy state, are subject to overuse injuries.”

What should I do if I get shin splints?

Dr. Jack recommends calf and tibius exercises, in addition to class warm-ups. He stresses the importance of icing the injured muscles immediately after activity, and for ten to twenty minutes, two or three times daily thereafter.

Irish dancers prevent shin splints Photo: Flickr userAlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker
“As long as the dancer follows these rules, he or she may still dance while being treated for the injury,” says Dr. Jack.

What can I do to keep from getting shin splints?

Dr. Jack’s suggested list for prevention of shin splints:

1. Stretch, stretch, stretch the calf muscles.  Tight calf muscles lead to an overworked tibialus anterior.

2. Dance regularly.  If you dance on a sprung floor, make sure to alternate with a hard floor to keep your body’s protective mechanism active. 

3. Regular (chiropractic) manipulation of the feet, ankle, hips and spine.

4. Correctly sized and weighted dance shoes.  If your shoes are worn out, do not keep dancing in them.

5. Fuel your body, and drink lots of water. Increase carbohydrates when your dancing increases (many muscular injuries are related to burned out muscles-not enough carbohydrates for the activity).

Spend the extra time preventing and treating your legs for shin splints, and you’ll be landing those leap-two-threes for years to come.

For more information about dance injury prevention and treatment, please go to Dr. Jack Giangiulio’s website

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