Shin splints can have a big impact on your ability to exercise and maintain a consistent workout routine. Usually caused by overuse, they can be a side effect of exercise routines that are too intensive. In fact, there’s even evidence that simply approaching running with a “perfectionist” mindset is enough to drastically increase1 your risk of developing shin splints.
So what can you do to get back on track as quickly as possible? First, consult your healthcare provider about any pain or injury you may be having. They know your specific needs and can provide you with the best guidance.
What are shin splints?
The term “shin splints” refers to pain in the shins caused by overuse. This pain arises from a variety of factors, but according to the Mayo Clinic2, “shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone.”
In other words, pounding and stress when you begin or increase an exercise program can cause pain and inflammation. It’s important to note that it is all relative because a beginning runner who jogs a mile a day is just as much at risk for shin splints as a marathoner.
What can I do about my shin splints?
Shin splints can take some time to heal. Once you’re feeling the pain, it’s all about addressing the symptoms and understanding what it will take to recover. Be sure to allow your shins time to heal completely, or you run the risk of your shin splints recurring3. Talk to your healthcare provider about specific approaches for you. Some of the things that your physician may recommend include:
- Use pressure wraps or kinesiology tape.
This waterproof tape helps keep your shin area supported during recovery. With the CURAD Performance Series Kinesiology Tape the strips are precut to make them easy to apply and the flexible fabric conforms to fit the contours of your leg.
- Ice your shins.
According to WebMD,4 one of the ways to ease the pain and swelling includes icing your shins 3-4x per day for approximately 20-30 minutes at a time for two to three days - or until your leg begins to feel better. To make it easier, use an ice pack that fits and conforms comfortably to your leg plus has a fabric barrier built in. The frost-free fabric barrier helps insulate your skin from getting burned from the cold.
- Take over the counter pain relief.
Using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen) may be an option for reducing pain, according to the Mayo Clinic5. Before taking any over-the-counter medication, please check with your healthcare provider about whether it’s appropriate for you.
- Get rest.
Your body needs time to heal. Continuing to exercise through the pain of shin splints can make them worse so put your exercise routine on hold until you’ve recovered.
Make small changes to prevent reinjury.
Once you’ve healed, making targeted changes to your daily routine may help prevent recurrence:
- Stretch, stretch - and stretch some more.
The muscles on the front portion of your legs around your shins need to stay flexible. Consult a licensed trainer or physical therapist for some exercises and stretches you can do at home. According to the Sports Injury Clinic6, some simple stretches that promote shin splints recovery include both straight leg calf stretches and bent leg calf stretches.
- Be kind to your feet and shins.
Instead of running or walking on hard-surfaced paved roads or sidewalks, try running or walking on rubber tracks, grass, or the beach. (Note: if you are running on uneven surfaces, wear appropriate footwear to provide support and reduce the risk of rolling your ankle.)
- Buy appropriate shoes.
Some running shoes aren’t designed well, especially considering the amount of wear and tear runners put them through. Talk to your health care provider about which option is best for you. Everyone’s feet and gait are unique and your provider will be able to point you in the right direction for the type of shoe that will best meet your individual needs.
- Use insoles or orthotics in your shoes.
If your gait is uneven, or there’s too much rotation on your foot and ankle when you walk or run, you may want to ask your healthcare provider if an insole or orthotic would help.
- Change your high impact workouts to lower impact options.
Try alternating your running or walking workouts with a different exercise. Low impact exercise such as swimming or running in a pool, yoga and bicycling can be great options to give your shins a break.
Though your running or walking routine may have resulted in shin splints, they don’t need to be an everyday part of your life. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you need to do to recover and what steps you should take to prevent a recurrence. Once you’ve recovered from shin splints, you’ll be ready to enjoy your exercise routine again.
1Hutchinson, A. (2018, June 8). Why Perfectionists Get More Shin Splints. Outside Online, Outside Magazine Retrieved from https://www.outsideonline.com/2317016/why-perfectionists-get-more-shin-splints.
2Shin Splints. (2016, July 21). Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research Retrieved from http: www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shin-splints/symptoms-causes/syc-20354105.
3Newman, T. (2017, October 13). Shin splints: Symptoms, causes, and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/242169.php
4Smith. M. (2017, December 13). What Are Shin Splints? WebMD. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/shin-splints#1
5Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016. July, 21). Shin splints. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shin-splints/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354110
6Walden, M. (2019, May 17). Shin Splints. Sports Injury Clinic. Retrieved from: https://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/lower-leg/shin-pain/shin-splints