What Are Shin Splints and How to Get Rid of Them?
If you’ve ever had shin pain after starting a running program, or sneaked up on you when you increased mileage or added more intense exercise, you probably had shin splints. This injury is usually not serious, but it can be frustrating if it doesn’t go away quickly.
Shin pain can mean several different things, and you may need professional help to figure out exactly what is wrong and what to do about it. A physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine is a good place to start, or you can ask your PCP if you have one.
However, many people (myself included) would rather try to deal with this condition on their own or with the help of a coach before seeking medical attention. If you go this route, just don’t be stupid – conditions such as stress fractures and compartment syndrome can begin as pain in the lower leg. So, if the pain seems to be severe or only gets worse rather than better, call your doctor.
What causes shin splits?
Calf tingling, especially a form known as medial tibial tension syndrome , tends to occur in people who run and jump a lot. They usually happen at the beginning of a training plan or when you increase the volume or intensity of your workout. Thus, a person who has just started eating 5K may risk getting them; the same can be done by a basketball player who has just joined a new team and trains twice as often as before.
For runners, factors that can contribute to shin splints and ways to reduce these risks include:
- increased mileage or intensity (build up more slowly)
- wear the wrong shoes (choose a different pair)
- running on the sidewalk only (run on trail or grass if you can)
- tight calf or calf muscles (stretching, massage, or foam rolling may help)
- weak calf or calf muscles (strength training!)
What to do if your shins hurt
Inflammation can be part of what’s going on in your shins, so if your shin splints are new, see if ice and anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen) help you feel a little better.
Reducing the amount of running or jumping can help, especially if you’ve recently increased it. Reduce your mileage slightly and perhaps replace some of your sprints or speed workouts with light runs.
Strength training can help and is a cornerstone of many physiotherapists’ approach to lower leg rehabilitation. One exercise that the author of Gizmodo called “magical” is raising the toes:
- Stand on the edge of the step (hold onto the railing) with only your heels on it.
- Lower your toes as low as possible, and then lift them up several times for 30 seconds.
- Then bend your knees and do this exercise for another 30 seconds.
You can also do this exercise without a step, simply by standing on a flat floor. Another exercise that works the muscles that lift the toes is simply walking on the heels with the toes raised. These muscles attach to the front of the lower leg, and strengthening them can help relieve lower leg pain.
(By the way, I once had a similar pain in my forearms after several weeks of doing nail flexion and other heavy-duty forearm exercises, and it just didn’t go away. I learned that people in the grip training world talk about ‘forearm.’ Splints. ” and they swear by flexing their wrists to cure it. The movement is the same as lifting a toe, but you do it with your hands, not your feet, and hold a dumbbell in your hand with the appropriate challenge. I did so, the better my forearms felt I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call them “magic”.)
While you wait for strengthening exercises to take effect, go back to the list of risk factors for shin splints and see how many of them you can correct. Can you shorten your mileage and run a little on soft surfaces? Could you make some foam rollers before and after your run? Have you recently bought new shoes and can you go back to old models? On the other hand, perhaps your shoes are very old and could you use a new pair with more support and cushioning? Find which combination works for you and you can help manage your shin splints.