Shin Splint Remedies

Shin Splint Suggestions
Posted by Kendra (Dickinson, ND) on 05/10/2009
5 out of 5 stars

Hello. I've spent a good deal of time and effort battling chronic shin splints, so I figured I'd put down a bit of information on what helped me. I joined the military out of high school and hadn't done much running up until that point, so I had very little knowledge of exercise-induced injuries when I started experiencing shin pain. I was on the run team, so I did quite a bit of running, both distance and speed workouts. My shin pain grew worse - my teammates told me it was shin splints and that I needed to stretch more and run through the pain and it would eventually get better. Well, it didn't get better... it got progressively worse. I stretched before and immediately after running, and would ice my shins when I got back to the dorms. It got to a point where I could hardly lift my feet anymore, running became a haphazard 'slapping' of my feet against the ground. The pain was severe, even when I went about normal daily activities. You can actually perpetuate shin splints to a point where your shin bones break and you're walking/running on bones with hairline fractures. I was lucky enough not to get to that point. I had to stop running for months to give my shins a chance to heal. I started doing research - talking to doctors, scouring the internet, chatting with fellow runners about what worked for them. I was told by my doctor, after examining my legs and my gait, that my shins were slightly curved (bowed), so I would probably never completely rid myself of shin pain if I continued to run extensively. Soooooo, though the majority of shin splints can be dealt with sufficiently through the methods I list below, some of us will continue to get them no matter what. But we can significantly decrease the pain and discomfort - here's what worked for me:

The single most important thing I did was to change the type of running shoe I wore. I went from a "whatever stands out on the shelf" type of shoe to a "motion control/stability" shoe designed for severe over-pronators. I also went to a specialist who made a mold of my foot and crafted orthopedic inserts so that my foot wouldn't roll (pronate) as much. I also took changed my running stance. I read in a running magazine that you should run however your body feels most comfortable, but I believe that how I was running was perpetuating my shin splints. I had a lazy kind of shuffle run, didn't pick up my feet and run heel-toe straight. I fixed that and felt like it helped.

Stretching is also EXTREMELY important. It's best to warm up your muscles and then do your stretches - stretching cold muscles can do more damage than good. It's IMPERATIVE that you stretch thoroughly after your exercise as well. There are many stretches for your shins, (check the internet or ask a doctor) but my personal favorite is digging your heel into the ground with your toe against a wall - its a calf stretch, but you can feel it everywhere in your shins (and shins and calves go hand-in-hand). Another good one is to push the top of your toes/foot against the ground, move around a bit until you feel the shin muscles stretch where you want them to. It's helpful to do 'shin exercises' to strengthen them - while you're sitting in class, or at work, or wherever - just "air trace" the letters of the alphabet with one foot, then the other. Hydration is important as well. On days that I wasn't properly hydrated, my shin pain would flare up much faster than normal.

My brother, who shares my curved shin curse (guess its genetic) managed to find shin compression sleeves at a local store. He wore them for basketball and they helped him quite a bit with controlling pain. He also had another treatment he swears by, but I've never tried it (I don't run enough anymore to have the problems I previously experienced). He would ice his shins as soon as he could after exercise, let them get good and numb, then let them thaw completely. Once thawed, he would apply heat (he used an electric heating pad). His reasoning was that the cold, applied immediately after aggravation, would reduce swelling, then the heat would open blood vessels for circulation and repair.

Try not to 'slap' or 'pound' your feet when you run. Running down hills tends to tear the shin muscles, while running uphill tends to strengthen them. Run as gently as you can when running downhill. If you can alternate high-impact exercise (ei jogging, jumping, etc) with lower-impact (swimming, eliptical machine, biking, etc), it gives your shins a chance to rest and repair while you're still being active. If they're extremely painful, or if they just won't go away, you may want to consider giving them a good long rest, so they can fully heal. I was eventually forced into doing just that.

Shin splints are a pain to deal with and you have to be proactive about treating them. Hopefully, you are among the crowd that will get them temporarily, deal with it, then be on with life. But if you're a chronic sufferer, you'll need to take an active role in prevention and treatment, or they'll just get worse.