Shin splints, also known as tibial stress syndrome, are a common name for pain that affects the lower leg when it’s been subjected to too much pressure. Whether the causes are muscle or bone damage, most cases respond well to simple home treatments. Even better, you can usually prevent shin splints by adjusting your workout routine.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
1. Pace yourself. Overuse is the most common cause of shin splints. Increase the intensity of any workout gradually. Most runners can safely increase their distance by ten percent or less a week.
2. Buy the right footwear. Ensure your shoes are appropriate for your chosen sport and provide adequate support and padding. Keep them in good shape. Serious runners usually need new shoes about every 500 miles.
3. Consider arch supports. People with flat feet are more vulnerable to shin splints. That’s also true if your feet pronate or supinate, meaning they twist in or out. You can find arch supports in various sizes and shapes at drugstores and other retailers. Your doctor can also help you get custom made supports based on a plaster cast of your foot.
4. Examine your workout surfaces. Stick to surfaces that absorb impact like grass and sand. Avoid concrete, which may be lurking under the rug in some exercise studios.
5. Be cautious about sudden stops and starts. Playing basketball or just running for a bus can put a lot of stress on your shins. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, start out slow.
6. Stay on level ground. Running downhill or exercising on a slanted surface also increases the pressure. Walking up the stairs is good exercise but take the elevator down.
7. Warm up first. Gentle activity raises the temperature in your muscles and makes them more elastic and less prone to injury. Calf raises are especially helpful for building up your capacity.
How to Fully Recover From Shin Splints
1. Take the pressure off. Stop what you’re doing at the first sign of pain. Shin splints can take 3 to 6 months to heal. You’ll know you’re ready when the pain is gone and your leg feels strong and flexible again.
2. Switch to lower impact activities. You can still stay fit by swimming or biking. Yoga is also an excellent way to work out safely.
3. Apply ice. Ice may ease the pain. Apply it for up to a half hour every few hours for the first two or three days.
4. Elevate your leg. Reduce swelling by using a pillow to raise your shin above heart level. This works well when you do it overnight.
5. Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen may provide relief when taken on an occasional basis. Talk with your doctor if you plan to use them more frequently in order to manage any side effects such as the risk of internal bleeding and ulcers. In any case, avoid taking them with alcohol.
6. Talk with your doctor. Medical care may be necessary in some cases, especially if you suffer from severe stress fractures, which are small cracks in the bone. See your doctor if the pain persists or increases or if your shins swell and feel hot.
7. Consult with a physical therapist. Your doctor may recommend a physical therapist or you may want to locate one on your own. They can guide you through range of motion exercises and other techniques to prevent and treat shin splints and related conditions.
Shin splints are a common form of exercise injury but there are many ways to stay active while lowering your risk. Work out at a sensible pace and allow yourself adequate time for recovery if you feel any pain in your lower legs.