How to get rid of shin splints and protect them in the futur
How to get rid of shin splints and protect your shin in the future?
What are shin splints?
Medial tibial stress syndrome called shin splints will often happen when you are exercising too often or pushing yourself too hard. The inflammation occurs between your calf muscles and the front, inside section of your shin.
According to James Daniels, MD, a sports medicine physician at Southern Illinois University, when humans shift from walking to running, especially on hard ground, we put more stress on our forefoot and shins. This is why shin splints are most often caused by running.
Below are the physical traits that can increase your risk for getting shin splints:
1-Overpronating. This is when your foot and ankle rotate towards your pinkie toe when running. It is one of the biggest physical risk factors for shin splints.
2-Flexibility. If you struggle to flex your foot backward, towards your shin, you may have an increased risk of shin splints.
3-Weak hip muscles. Research has found that weak hip abductors can cause or exacerbate issues like sprained ankles, stress fractures, and shin splints.
How to treat shin splints?
The most common cause of shin splints isn't a specific activity or physical trait, but people pushing themselves too hard, too fast. Therefore, the first step to treating shin splints is rest. Make sure to take a break from training for two to four weeks, or until the pain subsides.
Daniels and Hicks offer a few more tips for treating shin splints:
Ice the area. Hicks recommends freezing water in a disposable cup and peeling off the lip of the cup, so you can use it as an ice stick. Rub the affected area with ice for 20 to 30 minutes, a few times a day, until the shin starts feeling better.
Avoid foam rolling. While foam rolling, especially along the hamstrings, is great for general health and wellness, Hicks advises that rolling over the site of your injury — like the front and inside section of the shin — can make your shin splints worse.
Wear compression sleeves. When you begin working out again, compression sleeves can help provide some relief and even prevent future shin splints.
Hold off on painkillers. Since inflammation is part of healing, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin may affect the healing process. Only use NSAIDs if the pain is intense, or try using non-anti-inflammatory pain relief such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).
How to prevent shin splints？
To prevent shin splints from recurring, it's important to not overexert yourself when exercising. Runners, especially new distance runners, should not increase the pace or distance of their runs by more than 10% at once, says Hicks.
Aside from not overdoing it, you can also prevent shin splints by strengthening the feet and hips — as well as maintaining flexibility in the ankle. Hicks and Michael Fredericson, MD, an orthopedic and sports medicine doctor at Stanford University, recommend these exercises to prevent shin splints:
1-To stabilize muscles in the foot, try standing on a towel and scrunching it with your toes. You can also try picking up marbles or other small objects with your toes.
2-Alternate between standing with your big toes lifted off the ground and lifting every toe but the big one off the ground. Make sure you aren't rolling your ankle in any direction to compensate. This can prevent the ankle from overpronation when running.
3-Exercises such as clamshells and monster walks improve the strength of hip abductors, the stability of the hip, and your gait.
4-Traditional weight training exercises such as barbell squats, and deadlifts, as well as single-leg exercises like Bulgarian split squats and lunges, can strengthen lower leg muscles and improve hip stability.
5-Basic calf stretches, such as downward dog, are best done with both bent and straight legs, to stretch both muscle groups in the calf.
To further improve foot stability, you can also try walking barefoot on the balls of your feet. "The number one thing," says Fredericson, "is to make sure you are doing some type of barefoot activity." This can include doing the barefoot exercises mentioned above or even just walking around your house without shoes or slippers. Being barefoot improves the strength of intrinsic muscles in the feet and up the legs, thereby establishing healthier feet, ankles, and shins.
Just as well, a 2019 paper found that orthopedic inserts to support your arch can help with shin splints. However, before investing in foot inserts, see an orthopedic professional who can analyze your gait. Otherwise, says Hicks, make sure your running shoes are broken in first before looking for an insert.