Shin splints. If you’re a runner, you’ve certainly heard the phrase (and likely felt the pain) of this common ailment. Runners don’t have the corner on shin splints though, and many types of exercise that work the legs can lead to inflammation of your shins.
Pain from shin splints is typically felt on the front outside of the leg of the leg, between the knee and the ankle. You’ll likely notice a persistent, burning pain along your shins, that’s made worse by putting weight on the affected leg. Common causes of shin splints include failing to stretch properly, wearing shoes that don’t offer good support, increasing the intensity of your workout (through mileage or how fast you’re pounding the pavement), or suddenly switching up the type of physical activity you’re doing, e.g., running hills after primarily focusing on flat runs.
In exploring home remedies for shin splints, it’s important to keep in mind the possibility that you may have gotten a stress fracture instead of shin splints. The only sure way to tell is a visit to the doctor’s office for an x-ray, but a good rule of thumb is that shin splints typically have more generalized pain along your shin, while a stress fracture is localized to a very specific part of the shin.
Home Remedies for Shin Splints
The good news is that there are a number of effective (and inexpensive) home remedies for shin splints. So, before trying more expensive or complicated remedies, make sure you give the following a try. Consistency is key for each of the following shin splint treatments, so keep in mind that regular application of these remedies is just as important as using each one in the first place!
This should be your first line of defense when it comes to treating shin splints. It might seem simple, but it’s a critical part of healing. Don’t listen to advice along the lines of “push through the pain.” Stop the activity that’s leaving you with pain in your shin (or decrease activity, depending on severity), and give yourself some time to heal. If, when you resume activity, the pain comes back immediately, you’ll know you didn’t give yourself quite enough time. Back to rest!
Consistent icing, alongside rest, is your next line of defense when it comes to dealing with shin splints. Ice for about 10 minutes, three to four times each day, massaging the ice with light pressure into the affected area of your shin. It’s okay to use direct contact with the ice cube, but if that doesn’t feel comfortable, you can wrap the ice in a paper towel or washcloth.
If you do decide to continue some limited physical activity while treating your shin splints, taping can be a great way to support your shins and decrease the odds of further damage. Wrap a bandage starting right above your ankle, and continue to right below your knee, or use kinesiology tape along the affected area. You might need to continue wrapping for four to six weeks, but the time spent is well worth it, since taping your shins very effectively keeps your tendons snug against your shin, to avoid further stress.
Your shin splints will heal faster when you support your surrounding muscles and ligaments by using slip-in arch supports, particularly if you have flat arches or overly pronounced arches, which already put some strain on your feet and heels. A lack of support in your footwear can contribute significantly to the stress your shins absorb. Rather than buying expensive shoes, opt for cost-effective orthotic inserts.
Stretching your Achilles tendon and your calves can help strengthen and support your shins, and lead to healing. Try out the following easy, effective stretches for your calves and tendons. For maximum impact, repeat several sets of each stretch about three times each day.
How to Prevent Shins Splints from Recurring
It’s important to remember that knowing how to treat shin splints is just one part of the equation here. Preventing shin splints in the first place is critical as well. Consider the possibility of shin splints any time you make a change in your workout or activity regimen.
Factor in intensity, the type of motion you’ll be doing, and the type of surface you’ll be running on. Suddenly switching from a flat dirt trail to a flat pavement path can take a toll on your shins in the same way that suddenly upping your distance from 2 miles to 5 miles can.
Shin splints might be common, but that doesn’t mean they have to be a common occurrence in your life. Follow good exercise practices to avoid developing shin splints in the first place, and employ the home remedies in this blog post at the first sign of symptoms to cut pain off at the pass!