Shin Splints: what they are and how to treat them

After a run or workout do you ever have the feeling that your shins are on fire?

What are shin splints?
The term shin splints is used to describe shin pain or inflammation that is felt along the inside or front edges of the shin. They also appear to be a result of over stretching the muscles where they attach to the shin.

Shin splints are common for people who put extra stress on the shins by quickly stopping and starting. People who run a lot, especially beginners, may be prone to shin splints as well.

Shin splints are  painful and can slow down your progress while you wait for your legs to heal.

I run around 5 times a week and still struggle with shin splints. Sometimes I wear sleeves over my calves/ shins to compress the muscle while I run and exert more force on my legs.

Some of the common causes of shin splints include:

  • Excessive or improper training
  • A sudden increase in your exercise regime: including suddenly increasing the intensity of your exercises and also increasing your mileage to quickly
  • Overuse
  • Muscle imbalances or tightness
  •  Unsupportive shoes
  • Regular training on uneven and/ or hard surfaces;  placing extra stress on the muscles and tendons

Shin splints can also be a sign of a problem with your running style.

  • Taking strides that are too long puts excess force on your shins.
  • Feet that roll inward, or pronate, also put more strain on the tendons and muscles of your legs.

How do I know I have shin splints?
People suffering from shin splints will usually feel a dull and aching pain in the front of their lower leg. If you touch your shin bone and it is sore, it could be shin splints.

In addition, pain in your shins can be a sign of a stress fracture or anterior compartment syndrome.

If you do not notice some relief after resting a few days to a week, consult a healthcare professional.

How do I treat shin splints?
The pain caused by shin splints can be treated by:  icing the area to reduce swelling and inflammation.

  • Apply ice for 20 minutes every 2-4 hours
  • Rest your legs so they can recover
  • If you have been wearing the same shoes for over a year, then it’s time to buy a new pair
    • Function is more important than fashion: choose a shoe that is fitted right and feels good when your move around
    • Ask an employee at a running store to examine your running stride and gait so you can be fitted properly
  • Since shin splints can be caused by muscle weakness or imbalance, improve your strength in your lower legs.
    • Start with calf raises: three sets of 20 repetitions 3 times a week
  •  Thoroughly warm up your body before a workout
  • Cool down and stretch after a workout
  • Do some rehabilitation
    • If you suffer regularly, foam roll your calves and your tibialis anterior – the muscle that runs along the outside of your shin bone.

Make these a regular part of your routine; they could help reduce the severity of shin splints and get you healthy in no time!

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