What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints is a general term used to describe exercise-induced pain in the front of the lower legs. The pain is felt along the tibia bone (also known as the shin bone). At first it feels like a dull throb, but if you continue to exercise it can become very painful. If possible, you should stop the activity that caused the pain for 2 weeks. You can still exercise in this time, but choose options that do not stress the legs such as swimming, yoga or cycling.
8 Ways To Treat Shin Splints
1. Ice The Area
Apply ice packs to the affected shin(s) for 20 minutes every 2 hours until the pain is gone. Ice works by reducing inflammation. To protect your skin wrap the ice pack in a thin towel. You can create an ice pack by placing ice cubes or crushed ice into a Ziploc bag. Alternatively use a bag of frozen corn or peas.
2. Raise Your Leg
To reduce swelling keep your leg elevated above heart level, especially at night time. This means, when lying down your leg will be higher than your hips. During the day aim to keep the leg at least at the same level as the hips by placing it on another chair if you are sitting.
3. Use A Compression Sleeve
Wear a shin splint/calf compression sleeve (Zensah is one manufacturer). These are like socks, but without the foot part. The sleeves are designed to prevent and speed up recovery of shin splints by supporting the tibia bone, calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Prices range from $15 to $40 for one sleeve.
4. Take Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers
Take a painkiller with anti-inflammatory properties such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin (Tylenol). These drugs can have side effects and increase the risk of ulcers and bleeding, so only use them when necessary.
5. Buy Arch Supports
Shin splints is commonly caused by flat feet (where the arch of the foot collapses). You can buy arch supports to place inside your shoes - these supports can be transferred from one set of shoes to another, so only one pair is necessary. Use them for every day use, not just for sports. They help to cushion and disperse the pressure on your shin bones. Popular brands include Dr. Scholl's Arch Supports, Orthaheel, Medi-Dyne, Perfect Fit Orthotic and Pure Stride.
6. Stretching Exercises
Rest is the key ingredient for a speedy recovery from shin splints. However, some gentle stretches may help to relieve pain. Try some heel and toe walking to strengthen the lower leg muscles. Walk across a room, 20 steps or so, on your toes. Then walk back on your heels. Complete the exercise slowly and repeat 3 times a few times a day. Always consult a doctor before starting shin splint exercises.
8. Tape Your Shins
Taping your shins with kinesiology or trainers tape can help instantly alleviate the pain of shin splints. Ideally you should shave your leg(s) before applying the tape because it is sticky (this makes it less painful to remove). Start taping from either the ankle or bottom of your foot and continue upwards to cover the painful part of the leg.
When To See A Doctor
If rest and ice does not relieve pain after a few days your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist. An orthopedist is a doctor trained in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system and he commonly treats foot problems. He will perform a thorough physical exam and may order an X-ray to look for fractures. Seek immediate help if:
• Pain in your shins follows an accident or fall
• Your shin is inflamed and hot
• Swelling worsens
• Pain persists, even at rest.
How Will I Know When It Is Cured?
You will know your shin splints are cured when the affected leg feels the same as the 'healthy' leg. If you jump up and down on both legs, you should feel no pressure or pain.
Heal Your Life
According to Louise Hay's best selling book Heal Your Body, lower leg problems may be a sign of being fearful of the future. The legs carry us forward in life and shin problems mean we do not want to move forward. She recommends saying a daily affirmation "Life is for me".
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