At any given time, if you're a runner or a dancer, you've probably dealt with shin splints. The pain comes at the worst of times and more than anything, they're annoying to deal with. Thankfully, with some rest and rehabilitation shin splints can be taken care of pretty quickly. First, let's dive into what they are, some of the symptoms, and how to get rid of shin splints.
What is a Shin Splint?
A shin splint is a pain found in the lower part of the legs where the shinbone (tibia) is. Shin splints cause pain and tenderness in the front of the leg. They're generally a result of tight calf muscles and weak shin muscles.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are most common in new runners who push too hard too fast or in dancers. Generally, they occur from activities that use a lot of leg intensity and when a great deal of weight and tension is used during an activity. It can also result from wearing improper footwear or having flat feet. For runners, shin splints can come on by running on your toes. It's important to have a stride that breaks the ground in the center of your foot. Don't rely on your toes to hold your body weight up because that puts a lot of tension on your calf muscles. Same goes for dancers; think about a ballerina's stance—they hold the majority of their weight on their toes too.
How Do I Get Rid of Shin Splints?
REST and STRETCH! That may seem like the easy way out, but truthfully these are the best ways to get rid of them. Because shin splints are caused by overuse, your legs need time to repair the muscles that have been hurt in order to keep going.
A hack for faster recovery is to take a dixie cup, (like the ones you use for mouthwash) fill it with water, place it in the freezer for 1-2 hours, then rip the rim off the top of the cup and gently rub the ice up and down the front of your leg. This gives your leg a slower release to the exposure of ice, which can help soothe the inflammation. If a shin splint is not treated correctly with rest, it can lead to a bone fracture which will keep you off your feet for much longer. For stretching options, check out the best stretches for runners.
How Can I Prevent Shin Splints?
For runners, new or not, don't increase mileage too quickly. It's best to increase weekly mileage every 2 weeks; this way, your legs can adjust over a longer period of time. Try cross-training too. This can include running on softer surfaces such as grass or a track nearby or hopping on a bike or dipping in the pool for a swim.
It may also be time for new shoes. You should swap out your running shoes every 300-500 miles. And of course, always do your stretches before and after a run and never neglect your calf stretches. Shin taping with KT tape is also a great idea when your rest and recovery has been enough.
For more ways that runners should take advantage of their rest and rehabilitation time, check out why runners should do yoga.