After you've finished running, do the front parts of your lower legs often ache? This is commonly known as shin splits or less commonly, medial tibial stress syndrome. Don't worry; your legs don't need to be amputated, even though it may be extremely painful. Shins splints are the result of an escalation of activity or if you have intensified or changed your exercise routine. Most likely you will have tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner part of your lower leg and swelling. The good thing to hear is that you can easily treat shin splints!
First, you need to rest and ice your shins. It's best to ice your shins every three to four hours for about a half hour for the next couples of days. During this time, you shouldn't be running. Try a lower impact activity such as swimming or maybe a spin class. According to Runner's World, when you do start running again, avoid hills and excessively hard surfaces until the pain completely goes away. Also, be sure to increase your mileage slowly.
If you don't take precautions then shin splints could turn into stress fractures and a longer recovery time. A week off now is better than four to six weeks off later!
You'll know if your shin splints have healed if:
- Your injured leg is as flexible as your other leg
- Your injured leg feels as strong as your other leg
- You can jog, sprint and jump without pain.
Here are a few ways to prevent shin splints from happening to you.
Consider Cross Training! Cross Training helps to strengthen muscles other than your leg muscles. Try out a few new classes that your gym is offering or jump on a stationary bike. This helps you to keep your muscles strong and your body in shape. But it also helps to give you those couple of days off from running for less stress on your shins.
Make sure you have the correct footwear. You may have worn out your running shoes or are wearing shoes that aren't meant for running. It's important that you get the right type of shoes because improper footwear often causes shin splints. You may want to visit a store that can fit you for running shoes. A professional will be able to analyze your gait and fit you with the proper shoe. You should also replace your shoes every 300 to 350 miles.
Be sure to stretch. Stretch your calves and Achilles heel regularly, especially if you are prone to shin splints. A quick stretch and warm-up will help you to build muscle and prevent more injuries. You can grab a foam roller and focus on your calf muscles. Try adding calf raises to your routine to build those muscles!
Stabilize your shin. Before your run, wrap up your shin or apply KT Tape to keep them secure and stabilized. You can also try compression socks or sleeves, which promotes good blood flow.
Vary your running surfaces. Hills and hard surfaces put more stress on your legs. If you're recovering from shin splints, it would be best to start running on gentle trails, grass and other soft surfaces. (via Women's Running)
How do you treat shin splints? Share with us in the comments below.