Spring training has begun or is just about to begin for many runners. One of the ailments I hear about most often from athletes is shin splints. This is a common overuse injury that tends to flare up at the beginning of training, usually with runners who are just starting out or picking up their mileage rapidly. It can also be caused by other factors such as running on harder surfaces, changes in or poor gait, and improper footwear.
If you haven’t ever experienced shin splints you are lucky. The typical symptoms are pain and inflammation in the shin area, either medial or anterior (inside or outside). More serious forms of shin splints can also cause a bumpy corn cob like feel. It is very important that you rule out a stress fracture before continuing with training. The main signs to look for in a stress fracture are localized pain that you can feel to the touch and more pain in the morning which tends to ease as the day goes on. If you are not certain whether it is a stress fracture or shin splints, it is imperative that you make an appointment with your doctor.
Once you have ruled out a stress fracture there are a few things that you can do to ease the pain and get yourself on the path to recovery:
Rest or lighten the load: If you can take a day or two off, go for it. If not, try easing up on your mileage and then slowly return as your pain lightens. Remember that this is often a case of too much too fast. So if time is on your side, ease yourself back in.
Stretch: Focus on your calves and Achilles tendon. Downward dog the heck out of your legs. And do my favorite stretch where you sit on your feet! Remember to slowly stretch, hold for 30 seconds, and never ever bounce!
Compress: Compression sleeves can be your best friend. They aren’t cheap but if you feel like your achy legs could use some TLC this is the “hug” you have been looking for. These bad boys give a nice light squeeze to keep out the inflammation and speed up recovery. Skip running in them and wear them afterwards. I have spent many a night sleeping in these and can tell a difference in the morning.
Skip the meds go for heat: I recommend that my athletes avoid using anti-inflammatories. Besides the fact that they can mask pain and cause you to do further damage, research shows that they can also slow your recovery. Instead, try eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties: bright green and red fruits and veggies. Cherries are a real inflammation buster!
Also skip the ice and after the first day, put some heat on those shins. Try this both before and after your runs for extra relief.
Thank you to everyone for your amazing well wishes for Rock and I yesterday as we announced our pregnancy. We are over the moon excited and each and every one of you made it even more exciting! We are truly blessed.