Shin splints are a very common problem, especially among new runners and those who have been away from activity for a while. Even experienced runners can experience them if they overwork their muscles or rapidly increase the number of miles they run.
The condition usually manifests as pain, soreness, or tenderness in the shin region. For many people, it can take months to fully recover from shin splints, although there are some things you can do to return to activity more quickly. In this blog, the providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine explain what can cause shin splints and how they can be treated and prevented.
How do shin splints develop?
Shin splints is a condition in which the tendons and muscles related to the shinbone get inflamed. If these tissues get overworked or repeatedly stressed, pain in the shinbone region can result.
Shin splints are one of the most common problems we see in sports medicine. This injury is most prevalent in runners who:
- Are new to the sport
- Dramatically increase the distances they run
- Frequently run on hard surfaces, such as concrete
How are shin splints treated?
This is one occasion in which you shouldn’t push through the pain. Continuing the same activities that led to your shin splints may worsen the problem and cause healing to take longer.
One of the best treatments for shin splints is rest. A good way to recover is to use the RICE method. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
After 2-4 weeks or rest, if the pain is gone, you can start running again, but resume slowly. In some cases, it may take 3-6 months to heal.
How can shin splints be prevented?
If you’re new to running, start slowly. Don’t try to run a marathon in a few months. Start with a mile or two and work your way up from there. The same goes for experienced runners. If you normally run five miles, don’t jump to 10 in a week. Add a mile for a while, then add another and so on.
Another thing that you can do to help prevent shin splints is perform stretches to make your body stronger and more flexible. Do note that it’s best not to perform these stretches before a run. Some stretches that may be helpful include the following:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and place a resistance band around the outside of your thighs. There should be a good amount of tension. Step forward with your left foot, and then with your right. Then step to the left with your left foot, and then with your right foot. Then step back with your left foot, and then with your right. Then step right with your right foot, and then with your left. Repeat this square-shape pattern 10-15 times.
Place your right foot on top of a small towel. Gather the towel with your toes, then return to the starting position. Do this 10-15 times with each foot.
Point and flex
In a standing position, extend one leg and flex your toes toward your shin, then away from your shin. Repeat this 10-15 times with each foot.
If you have shin splints and want help managing the condition, book an appointment online or over the phone with Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine today.