Ow, Ow, Ow! Ol’ Scratch here ran way too much yesterday. That T-Rex chased me FOREVER. And now I’m feeling it; my shins are aching. Guess it’s as good of a time as any to talk about shin splints.
You’ll know what I’m talking about you’ve ever walked too much on vacation or ran for the bus and the next day your shins are throbbing. Your lower leg will ache; the painful area can vary. Shin splints can be on either side of the leg or even affect the bone. The area can be painful to the touch. The muscles can sometime swell which can irritate the nerves in the feet; this makes the feet feel weak or numb. Shin splints – as known as tibial stress syndrome- unfortunately don’t have one cause; they indicate that there’s another problem. There are three probable causes: irritated or swollen muscles often from overuse; tiny, hairline stress fractures in the lower leg bones; flat feet where the arch of the foot collapses and stretches the muscles and tendons.
To officially diagnose shin splints, you will need to see a doctor. They may need to run test like X-rays or bone scans to look for fractures. The doctor may also need to watch you run.
No matter the cause, the treatment for shin splints is the same.
•Rest. Avoid running, but don’t become a lump. While you’re healing, try low-impact exercises, such as swimming, bicycling or water running. It may take a few weeks to a couple months to fully heal, but be patient. When the pain does finally go away, gradually get back into running.
•Ice. Apply ice packs to the affected shin for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day for several days.
•Reduce swelling. Elevate your leg above the level of your heart, especially at night. You can also compress the area with an elastic bandage or compression sleeve. Just don’t make it too tight. If the pain increases, loosen the wrap especially if the area becomes numb or swelling occurs below the wrapped area.
•Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) or aspirin to reduce pain.
•Check out your shoes. You may need more supportive shoes or arch supports.
•Try out some stretches specifically for shin splints. Check out this picture for some ideas. Just be careful and gentle. If these cause more pain, STOP and consult your doctor.
You can also try a foam roller as in the video below. Just be careful and start gently. You only want to massage the affected muscle and not put pressure on the bone. If you don’t have a foam roller, there are rollers on the market but you can substitute a rolling pin or even a can of soda. Just be very gentle!