Shin splints are a painful problem that most runners are likely to experience at some point in their careers. Shin splints are injuries caused by overuse that affects the lower muscles and tendons in the legs, as well as the shin bone. The medical term for shin splints is “medial tibial stress syndrome.”
How Do You Know if You Have Shin Splints?
Shin splints are easy to spot. They are a sharp, shooting pain that runs from the shins to the front lower bones in the leg. They can be mild and annoying, or they can be so painful that you feel like you cannot continue to run or even walk. Usually, the pain will subside if you stop the activity that you were doing, but it is possible for shin splints to cause lasting damage.1
Shin splints can sometimes be a symptom of other issues such as a stress fracture so it is a good idea to seek medical advice if you are unable to resolve the issue yourself with home remedies and changes to your footwear.2
Tips for Treating Shin Splints
Treating shin splints is usually fairly easy. People are more likely to get shin splints if they are new to exercise or if they suddenly go from running short distances to running much longer distances, without proper preparation. Shin splints are more common in those who run on roads than those who run on modern tracks or grass. The risk of shin splints increases greatly in those who are overweight, and those who wear old or worn-out trainers to exercise.
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The best treatment for shin splints is rest. If you suffer from shin splints, stop the activity that is causing you pain, and wait for two weeks before you start it again. You can stay active while healing by doing low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming or cycling so that you don’t lose too much fitness while recovering.
In the short term, you can use ice to bring down any swelling associated with your shin splints and you can also use over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve the pain.3
Using Natural Remedies for Shin Splints
If you prefer not to go the pharmaceutical route, then there are a few things that you can do to reduce the pain and also reduce the risk of suffering from shin splints in the future. Buying high-quality running shoes that support your feet is a good starting point, as is learning to strike with the midfoot rather than the heel or the forefoot. This reduces the strain on the calf muscles and makes running less stressful on your body.
As you can see, treating shin splints is most definitely possible. However, it is best to avoid getting them in the first place. Shin splints are preventable if you wear good running shoes and learn how to run with a proper gait. You can also help to promote good muscle health and rapid repair through massage therapy, and foam rolling. Massage (either with your hands, a massage device or a foam roller) can help to improve circulation and stop the muscles from becoming too tense.
Essential oils can be useful for treating shin splints as well, since many essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties, making them a nice alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers. The Relieve blend contains lavender and chamomile which are both known to be very relaxing and can, therefore, help with muscle tension.4 Meanwhile, the Healthy blend is rich in cinnamon which is known to be an anti-inflammatory.5 This means that it can be useful to reduce pain and to support your body as it heals when you rest.
Shin splints can be quite unpleasant. If you start to develop them while you are running, slow down or stop. Try to run on even ground, or gentle hills rather than running almost exclusively up or down hills. Seek advice from expert runners to make sure that your gait is correct, especially if you regularly run long distances. If you are training for a marathon or other long-distance race, build up to race-day distances gradually. If you have never gone running before, start with something gentle such as the Couch 2 5K program and work up to long runs so that you do not get injured.
Your body is capable of a lot more than you think if you look after it. Diving into long runs in ill-fitting or worn out shoes is an easy way to do lasting damage, though. Learn to warm up properly, stretch off after exercise, and wear the right equipment for the training you are doing. Living an active lifestyle means taking care of yourself day in, day out, not just while you’re on the track.
Photo credits: luckyraccoon/shutterstock.com, YuttanaJaowattana/shutterstock.com