Shin splints are a painful and often debilitating condition that affects the lower leg. This condition can be so severe that it can hinder an individual’s ability to walk. If this sounds like you, you have come to the right place.
Although shin splints can feel downright awful, there are some treatments and preventative measures that you can take to get back on your feet. Let’s talk about what shin splints are and how to reduce pain and promote healing.
What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints, medically called medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common lower leg injury that most often occurs in athletes. This is an overuse injury that can affect the muscles, tendons, and even the bone tissue around the tibia or shin bone.
People that suffer from shin splints will feel pain along the tibia, especially when they are performing strenuous activities that require running or jumping, such as exercise and sports. In severe cases, there can be redness, swelling, and warmth in the affected area.
One of the common causes of shin splints is overtraining or suddenly increasing the level of physical activity that you perform. This can cause the tendons and muscles around the tibia to become inflamed, causing pain along the shin area. Another common reason why people develop shin splints is that they do not stretch properly before and after exercise.
Treatment for Shin Splints
Treatment for shin splints is relatively simple and can be done at home. We want to use the RICE treatment, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation, to treat the injury.
Rest is vital if you want to get back to pain-free running, so take give yourself a few days to a few weeks so that you can heal. It is tempting to get back out there early and run but this can leave you sidelined for much longer and with worse pain.
Ice the shin for twenty minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. Make sure you wrap the ice in something so you do not harm your skin.
Compression works by giving extra support and stability to the affected area. An elastic bandage, brace, or high-compression sock can all help reduce pain in the shin and can make it easier to move and walk around in.
Elevating the injured leg can help lower the pressure in the blood vessels around the shin, reducing inflammation, pain, and bleeding. Make sure you elevate the injured leg every chance you get using some stacked pillows or other comfortable material. Don’t forget to do this before you fall asleep or you may wake up due to the pain.
If you have a severe case of shin splints, you will need to see a doctor since certain cases may require surgery and physical therapy. There may also be orthotics, such as arch support inserts for your shoes, that can reduce the strain and stress that your lower leg is struggling with.
Stretches for Shin Splints
Stretching the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that are affected by shin splints can help with recovery and can also help with the prevention of future occurrences. Here are some of our favorite stretches for shin splint recovery and prevention.
Standing Calf Stretch
The standing calf stretch is a quick and easy stretch that you can perform just about anywhere. This stretch will hit the muscles in your calves and is also great for preventing other foot injuries such as Achilles tendonitis.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead. Take a step forward with one foot and shift your weight onto the forward foot while maintaining contact with the floor with the heel of the rear foot. Lean forward, keeping your rear foot planted firmly until you feel a stretch.
Hold this stretch for thirty seconds and switch sides. Make sure you use this stretch before you exercise to limber up and after as a part of your cool down.
Related: Why Movement Matters for Your Kids
Seated Achilles Tendon Stretch
This is a great stretch that releases the tension in the strongest and thickest ligament that your body has, the Achilles tendon. Releasing the tension in your Achilles tendon will allow the calf muscles to relax, reducing the strain on the tibia so that shin splints subside.
Sit down on the floor with your feet extended out in front of you. Bend one knee and wrap a towel or belt around the ball of your foot while keeping the heel on the floor. Using the towel or belt, slowly pull the toes towards you and hold for thirty seconds.
Switch legs and repeat the stretch on the other leg. Repeat this stretch three or four times a day to recover from shin splints.
Hanging Calf Stretch
The hanging calf stretch can be done wherever there is a ledge or stair you can stand on. Start this stretch by standing on the stair with the balls of your feet and with your heels hanging off. Holding onto a railing or other sturdy object for balance, allow your heel to dip down until you feel a stretch in your calves.
Hold this stretch for thirty seconds and repeat it twice a day for shin splints.
One of the causes of shin splints can be muscle imbalance. Take our Fitness and Mobility Assessment and get to work on making your weaknesses your strengths.
Shin splints can be a terrible experience that can keep you from being able to walk without pain. Try these stretches to recover from shin splints but remember to keep up the stretching routine to prevent them in the future.