How To Treat Shin Splints And Keep Running
Shin splints can be a frustrating and painful condition that affects many runners. It is important to understand what shin splints are, how to identify the symptoms, and most importantly, how to treat and prevent them so that you can continue running pain-free. In this article, we will explore various techniques and strategies that can help you effectively manage shin splints and get back on track with your running routine.
What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, refer to the pain and inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue along the shin bone (tibia). It is a common overuse injury among runners and athletes who engage in activities that involve repetitive stress on the shin area. Shin splints often occur due to excessive stress and strain on the muscles and tendons that attach to the shin bone.
Identifying the Symptoms
Recognizing the symptoms of shin splints is crucial for early intervention and proper treatment. The following signs may indicate shin splints:
- Dull or aching pain along the front of the lower leg.
- Pain that worsens during or after exercise.
- Tenderness and swelling along the shin bone.
- Mild to moderate pain when touching the affected area.
- Pain that subsides with rest but returns upon resuming activity.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to take prompt action to prevent further complications.
Rest and Recovery Techniques
Rest is a crucial component in the treatment of shin splints. It allows the injured tissues to heal and reduces inflammation. Here are some rest and recovery techniques that can aid in the healing process:
- Ice therapy: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
- Elevation: Elevate your leg to reduce swelling and promote blood flow to aid in the healing process.
- Compression: Use compression bandages or sleeves to help reduce swelling and provide support to the affected area.
- Non-weight bearing activities: Engage in low-impact activities such as swimming or cycling to maintain cardiovascular fitness while minimizing stress on the shin area.
Strengthening Exercises for Prevention
Incorporating specific exercises into your routine can help strengthen the muscles and tendons around the shin area, reducing the risk of shin splints. Consider including the following exercises in your training plan:
|Toe raises||Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Rise onto your tiptoes and slowly lower your heels back down. Repeat 10-15 times.|
|Heel walks||Walk on your heels for a short distance, engaging the muscles in your shins. Repeat for several minutes.|
|Calf raises||Stand on the edge of a step or curb with your heels hanging off. Rise onto your tiptoes and lower your heels below the step. Repeat 10-15 times.|
|Ankle circles||Sit or stand and rotate your ankles in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Repeat 10-15 times in each direction.|
|Resistance band flexion||Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Loop a resistance band around the balls of your feet and flex your toes towards your body against the resistance. Repeat 10-15 times.|
Perform these exercises regularly to build strength and flexibility in the muscles and tendons that support the shin.
Choosing the Right Footwear
Wearing appropriate footwear plays a significant role in preventing shin splints. Consider the following factors when selecting running shoes:
- Arch support: Choose shoes with proper arch support to maintain proper foot alignment and reduce stress on the shins.
- Cushioning: Opt for shoes that provide adequate cushioning to absorb shock and minimize impact on the shins.
- Stability: Look for shoes with good stability features to prevent excessive pronation (inward rolling) or supination (outward rolling) of the foot, which can contribute to shin splints.
- Proper fit: Ensure that your running shoes fit well and provide ample space for your toes to move freely without excessive pressure on the shin area.
Consult with a specialized running store or a podiatrist to determine the best shoe type for your specific needs.
Proper Running Form
- Posture: Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and maintain a slight forward lean from the ankles. Avoid excessive forward or backward leaning.
- Strike pattern: Aim for a midfoot strike to distribute impact forces evenly across the foot and lower leg.
- Cadence: Maintain a cadence (number of steps per minute) between 170-180 to reduce the loading on the shins.
- Surface: Choose softer surfaces such as grass or trails for running, as they absorb more shock compared to concrete or asphalt.
By adopting proper running techniques, you can reduce the risk of shin splints and improve overall running efficiency.
Gradual Return to Running
After an episode of shin splints, it is important to ease back into running gradually to prevent re-injury. Follow these guidelines for a safe return:
- Start slowly: Begin with shorter, low-impact runs, gradually increasing the distance and intensity over time.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to any signs of pain or discomfort during and after running. If pain persists, reduce the intensity or duration of your runs.
- Cross-training: Incorporate other low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, or strength training to maintain fitness while giving your shins adequate time to recover.
- Stretching: Regularly stretch your calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and other muscles in your lower leg to maintain flexibility and prevent muscle imbalances.
Remember, patience is key during the recovery process. Allow your body enough time to heal and gradually increase your running volume as your symptoms subside.
Q: What causes shin splints?
A: Shin splints are commonly caused by overuse, repetitive stress, improper footwear, running on hard surfaces, or sudden increases in training intensity.
Q: How can I prevent shin splints?
A: To prevent shin splints, it is important to gradually increase training intensity, wear proper footwear, strengthen the muscles around the shin area, and maintain proper running form.
Q: Can I run with shin splints?
A: It is recommended to avoid running with shin splints as it can worsen the condition and delay the healing process. Rest and recovery are crucial for proper healing.
Q: How long does it take to recover from shin splints?
A: The recovery time for shin splints varies depending on the severity of the condition. With proper rest, recovery techniques, and rehabilitation exercises, most individuals can expect to recover within 2-6 weeks.
Q: Can shin splints turn into stress fractures?
A: If left untreated or neglected, shin splints can progress to stress fractures, which are more severe and require longer recovery periods. Seeking early treatment is essential to prevent complications.
Q: Should I use heat or ice for shin splints?
A: Ice therapy is generally recommended for shin splints as it helps reduce inflammation and pain. Heat therapy is not typically recommended during the acute phase of shin splints.
Q: When should I consult a healthcare professional for shin splints?
A: It is advisable to seek medical attention if the pain persists, worsens, or if you experience severe swelling, redness, or difficulty walking