Dealing with Shin Splints

My sister, Allison, recently began running.  Fitness for her has been a rockier road than mine because at a very young age she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  She used to do ballet, swimming and soccer, but it all became too painful and had to stop.  Her journey to wellness was a long and painful one.  She had to go in for regular blood tests (and she HATES needles), much physical therapy and arthroscopic surgery. So, when she posted a link to a mud run on facebook, I was surprised, but I wanted to do anything I could to encourage her to continue running.

For Christmas I gave her some new running clothes and also went for a run with her.  It was great to do that with my sister.  But recently she emailed me about shin splints.  She has been having some problems with these and it isn’t uncommon for beginners (although seasoned runners shouldn’t be counted out either.)  I had shin splints when I first began running track when I was a freshman in High School and I remember how nagging they are, but taking care of them isn’t too complicated.  When I emailed her back with my advice, I realized I had myself a blog post.  Here is the advice that I gave her:

Before & After Your Run
It is always important to stretch before and after a run, but when you have an injury or nagging body part, it is important to spend a little extra time focused on it.  The stretch that I used to do when I had shin splints was to sit on the ground with my legs straight out in front of me.  Then I would have someone grab one of my feet and pull back.  I would then pull against them.  Don’t use too much pressure, you should just be able to feel the stretch.  Do the same thing for the other leg if you are having shin splints in both shins.  The only problem with this is that it requires another person.  Although, you can sometimes find a cabinet, book shelf or other type of furniture that you can get your foot under and stretch.  In addition to this stretch, below is a video of some similar stretches to try.


After Your Run
When you finish your run and really, whenever you feel pain in your shins, you should ice it.  This helps to reduce inflammation.  You don’t want to ice for longer than about 20 minutes and you should wait to ice again for about an hour.  It is also a good idea to use a towel or something like it so that the ice doesn’t have direct contact with you skin.  In conjunction with this, I would also recommend an NSAID to also reduce the inflammation.

Your Equipment
Having a good pair of shoes for running is paramount.  Developing shin splints could be a good indicator that it is time to replace your shoes. WebMD recommends that you may want to look into arch supports, but if you go to a good running store will they will analyze your gait by either having you run on a treadmill or watch you run outside. By doing this, along with looking at your current pair of running shoes, discussing any problems you are having and what your weekly mileage is, they can help you determine the right type of shoe for you.  They can even help you determine if you should use inserts and if so, which one.  The down side to this is that running shoes are generally $85-$120…not cheap.  But, they do help prevent injury and will make running a little more enjoyable.

Another piece of equipment you may want to invest in are some type of compression socks/sleeves.  These can be worn at any time, before, during or after your run.  They help with blood flow in you leg to reduce fatigue.  The prices of these types of socks/sleeves can be very expensive, but if you shop around you can find some good prices (and some fun colors).  Runner’s World has a great article that discusses different types of compression socks at a variety of price points.

I’m Not a Doctor
Lastly, I’d like to say that I’m not a doctor, a physical therapist, trainer or any kind of medical expert.  I’m speaking from my personal experiences along with the research that I’ve done on the internet.  If you are doing these things and aren’t getting better, it may be time to visit a medical professional to ensure that you aren’t having a bigger issue, such as a stress fracture.  On that note, I’ll leave you with one more article from Runner’s World to help you not only get over your shin splints, but to also help you become stronger.

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