If your legs below the knees are sore, tender and painful, and you can’t stand the thought of heading out on your daily run, chances are that you have developed shin splints.
Don’t give up hope (or running)! This happens often to professional athletes, including runners, and they have developed several strategies to deal with shin splints. Here are three treatments you can apply all on your own. (Be sure to call your doctor if things do not improve or if they get worse.)
Update: We’ve put together this handy guide to running shoes for shin splints which has helped a lot of athletes begin running again.
This one probably seems obvious, but you would be surprised at how hard it is for some runners to heed this advice. Once shin splints arrive, your first step should be to reduce or cut out entirely the source of the problem.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop training entirely. A good general recommendation is two to six weeks of rest, but rest involves different forms. It could, for example, include switching from running on a hard surface like concrete to a softer ground like dirt, grass or even pavement. Try to stay on flat ground as well – hills and uneven areas can aggravate your shin splints.
If your shin splints only occur after you have been running for quite a few miles, decreasing the frequency and length of your run should be helpful. If you need to stop running entirely, try swimming, biking or another form of cardio exercise that keeps you active.
Another shin splint treatment involves compression. With the use of compression socks or sleeves, blood flow through the body is enhanced, which means more oxygen and nutrients will be reaching your body. Compression also helps reduce muscular vibration and stabilize your muscles, which leads to less fatigue and quicker recovery times.
Compression socks and sleeves alone will likely not cure shin splints, but they will help. Research has not definitively proven their effectiveness, but much anecdotal evidence backs up the contention that compression socks reduce fatigue, increase strength and relieve shin splints during exercise.
One study found the best amount of compression to improve blood flow is 20 mm Hg at the ankle. At 30 mm Hg, though, flow was restricted. Gradual compression also works better – this means you need a sock that is tighter in the ankle than the knee. You can either run with compression socks (or sleeves) on, or just put them on afterwards for as long as you can tolerate. Find out what works best for you!
3. Foam Rolling
You can buy a foam roller for about $10 to $20 at a sporting goods store, and it will be one of the best purchases you make this year – foam rolling is one of the easiest and most effective ways to heal shin splints in your leg.
The idea of foam rolling is that it increases blood flow to the area you are massaging with the roller. This can alleviate most of your pain and soreness, so it’s definitely worth trying to see if it works for you.
Foam rolling also helps prevent problems by loosening your muscles up. We’re all tight from the stresses of everyday life (and most of us can’t afford a full-body massage every day), so foam rolling helps massage away sore muscle areas.
To massage your shins with the foam roller, get on your hands and knees on the floor with the foam roller under your shins. Then simply roll back and forth on the foam, making sure to put as much weight as you can on the roller.
Follow these simple tips to recover from your shin splints, and you’ll be back to running in no time!