Are you being held back from undertaking one of life’s most basic, rewarding and enjoyable activities? If you're struggling to run because of painful shin splints then don't worry, you're not alone! You just need to get started immediately with the correct shin splints treatment techniques.
Shin pain can often be summed up in 4 words: Too Much, Too Soon!
So if you’ve reached the crossroads and aren’t sure how to get rid of shin splints, don't stop now. Just follow these 16 tips for rapid shin splints treatment and you’ll merge onto the fast track back to pain free running.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #1: Diagnose It
Shin splints is a term that represents a group of different lower leg related injuries. However, each injury is different and because of varying factors, treatment differs slightly depending on your diagnosis.
Have a go at my Diagnosis Quiz to find out what type of shin splints you're suffering from.
Once you know which type injury you have, you’ll need to establish the severity of the injury.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #2: Rest It
Being a fitness enthusiast myself, I fully understand how frustrating it can be waiting out injury time while everyone else powers on.
Nevertheless, you must resist temptation to continue running or performing high impact exercises during the initial stages of your injury.
Give yourself a break. Your body will thank you in leaps and bounds.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #3: Ice It
Before you can work on a plan for treatment and rehabilitation, you’ll need to do something about the pain and swelling. Otherwise you''ll just increase your downtime if you do nothing about it.
In this regard, ice is your best friend. There are heaps of ways you can go about it, but however you choose to do it, ice for 10-15 minutes at a time.
Repeat this 3-4 times a day for up to 2-3 days or until the swelling subsides.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #4: Compress It
If you need to know how to avoid shin splints, compression is one of the key contributing factors.
When you wear a compression sock, there are multiple things going on. The compression actually provides a progressive compression. Simply stated, the compression is tighter at the foot and ankle and looser up around the calf area.
The point of this is to resist the effects of gravity. This is achieved by returning waste products back to the heart once the muscles have absorbed the oxygen and nutrients. These include deoxygenated blood, lactic acid and other waste products.
The more efficient your body is at doing this the faster your deteriorated muscles, tendons and ligaments can heal. With just the right amount of compression, the walls of the arteries will expand allowing more blood to flow.
This is where the major benefit of compression comes into play.
In fact, the ideal level of compression can increase blood flow by up to 30% during the recovery phase. If you experience any numbness or tingling in your foot then the compression sock is too tight.
For me, applying compression is a 'no-brainer' when it comes to shin splints treatment and learning how to get rid of shin splints.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #5: Elevate It
In most cases your going to apply this tip while icing, depending on which type of icing technique you use. While seated or lying down, rest your feet on a pillow or cushion just above the level of your heart.
This will limit excessive blood pooling in your legs to aid in controlling the swelling.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #6: Don't Stretch Too Soon
Time for a paradigm shift... Stretches do not treat shin splints! While you may have read to immediately stop running and performing high impact exercises, this is entirely true.
However stretches often get left out of this category. Mainly because stretches aren’t a high impact exercise and are critical in the prevention of shin splints. However they have their place and immediately after injury is certainly not it.
Think about it, you have pain in your shins because you’ve damaged the muscle tissues and tendons. Do you think these muscle tissues and tendons would appreciate you trying to lengthen them while they’re begging for timeout? I think not.
Listen to your body. This is exactly what it’s trying to tell you! Once the pain and swelling subsides, by all means start stretching.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #7: Avoid Applying Heat Too Soon
It’s a common mistake that unwary and misinformed people make all the time... Going for the heat pack instead of the icepack immediately after injury.
Heat treatment has similar benefits to compression by increasing the flow of blood to the affected area. However, don't apply heat during the first 72 hours of the injury occurring. You are more than likely going to increase the swelling and inflammation.
Once the swelling and inflammation is gone, applying heat packs will assist in reducing your recovery time.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #8: Protect The Injury
You want to be doing everything you can to ensure your injury time is a short as possible.
So the last thing you need is another setback because you were too nonchalant in protecting your injury. In most cases of shin splints this is straightforward. Simply stop running and high impact exercise for at least a few days, depending on the severity of your injury.
However, where the injury is tipping towards severe, you may want to consider wearing a brace. These are often referred to as a moon boot.
The use of a moon boot in the case of severe shin splints provides effective immobilization to the affected tissues. It also prevents stasis of blood in your leg, which could aggravate the pain and swelling.
Moreover, long-term use of a moon boot is not recommended because your leg muscles will slowly weaken over time.
So once you’ve gained a bit of mobility and can move around without pain then it’s time to take it off.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #9: Massage & Foam Rolling
For most of us when we think of shins, we think of the shinbone. But there is actually a fairly meaty muscle that runs alongside the tibia (shinbone).
If you run your fingers along the surface of your shin, you’ll notice the hard bone just below the skin. If you move your fingers to the outside of your shin you’ll feel the muscle known as the Tibialis Anterior.
There are certain trigger points or “knots” in your Tibialis Anterior that you can reach through deep tissue massage. These can offer some relief from the pain.
The only problem with this concept is that the self-massage technique can be difficult to get right for us regular folk. But don’t worry there is another way.
Myofascial release is a deep tissue massage that can be done using a foam roller. The Myofascial consists of tough membranes that wrap and connect your muscles. Since these membranes are fairly deep below the skin, they require a decent amount of pressure to reach them effectively.
The idea is to roll your shin over the roller as opposed to rolling the roller over your shin. By taking advantage of your own body weight, you’ll be able to get enough pressure to impact the trigger points. This will in-turn, offer some temporary relief from the pain.
Spend 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times a day in the initial stages of your injury for best effect.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #10: Reduce Inflammation
To assist your body in a rapid recovery, it will need some help to reduce the inflammation around your shins.
When you suffer shin splints, a series of chemical reactions are triggered beneath the skin. As a result of this, there are certain enzymes that act as catalysts for these chemical reactions. They are then converted into pain and inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory pills such as ibuprofen or naproxen act as inhibitors. This results in reduced pain and inflammation due to limited production of these nasty enzymes, helping you recover faster.
However, there is a downside to these over-the-counter pills.
Taking them too soon can in some cases make the bleeding worse, depending on the severity of the injury. So wait 24 hours and start with ice, rest and foam rolling before starting a course of anti-inflammatories.
Also, some people are allergic to the contents and can even cause dizziness and nausea. If the directions prescribed on the packet are not followed exactly, there is also a risk of causing bleeding to the stomach. And if you persist long term there is a higher risk of kidney or heart damage.
So be responsible, don’t abuse them and only take them as directed to give your recovery a jump-start.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #11: Increase Vitamin & Calcium Intake
Adding a multivitamin, which represents a mix of vitamins and minerals can help reduce inflammation and pain. This in-turn will speed up the recovery process as well.
You will see an increase in the production of collagen, which is a protein that helps in muscle and bone formation.
You will also get a boost in iron, especially if you’re not a big meat eater. Iron helps with the formation of blood and repair of damaged bones and muscles.
Furthermore, don’t forget to bump your calcium intake to help develop stronger bones. Vitamin D should go hand in hand with a calcium booster as it helps absorb more of the calcium.
You can normally buy these as a combination tablet from any health food store.
One last point to note is that there is a sizeable amount of clinical research done on vitamin D. There is now proof that vitamin D helps accelerate the healing process after a musculoskeletal injury.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #12: Increase Your Calorie Intake
It may be a natural reaction for some to automatically reduce their calorie intake when injured because they can’t exercise.
However, this is a flawed way of thinking. Because your body will take a lot longer to recover without enough nutrients to help mend the damaged tissues. In fact, you might even require around 10%-20% more calories than normal to recover from minor tissue damage. And in some cases up to 50% more calories to mend a major injury.
But don’t think this means you can go on a fast food eating binge!
You should be including lean proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates from grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables into your diet.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #13: Change Your Shoes
Although it's not a good idea to perform high impact exercise while recovering, you may still want to get outside.
Walking is normally fine as long as you don’t walk too far or too fast. However, it really does depend on the severity of your injury. If this is you, then definitely spend some time researching the right pair of shoes for you.
It is possible that your shoes were part of the problem in the first place.
Therefore it’s important to get shoes with plenty of cushioning and support that fits the contour of your foot properly.
The last thing you want during your recovery is to aggravate your injury from a walk in the park because of your shoes. But more importantly, when your making your comeback, wearing the wrong shoe could see you in deep trouble.
Luckily this is an easy hurdle to get over.
Be sure to get a copy of my Shoe Selection Guide to learn how to pick the right shoe for you.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #14: Stretch It
Make sure that you give your body enough time to recover from the initial pain and inflammation before you start stretching.
One of the most important things to remember when stretching is to warm up first. This will allow blood and nutrients to flow to the muscles being worked and avoid aggravating the injury further.
When performing stretches not long after sustaining shin splints, be very gentle with your movements. Take your time to gradually increase the stretch slowly.
If you have any doubts whatsoever, stop immediately and give yourself more time off.
Once you’re sure that you’re ready to start implementing a stretching routine, have a read of my article about shin splint stretches. You want to eliminate any chance of delaying your comeback.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #15: Cross Train
Just because you have shin splints doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to exercise! This is an opportunity for you to explore other ways of working out that you may not have tried before.
Once you’re over the initial stages of the pain and inflammation then you’re ready for cross training. Throw on some compression socks, warm up and jump on a low impact exercise machine.
The key thing to remember is to take it easy at first. Build into the session gradually and give yourself time to cool down. Furthermore, don’t overdo it by training for too long or by setting the resistance too high.
The best cross-training machines to use when you have shin splints include the following. The bike machine, seated bike machine and my favorite, the elliptical machine.
Shin Splints Treatment Tip #16: Surgery
Although a slightly unsettling topic, I thought it was worth including here because surgery is another option. However, it should only ever be considered as a last resort treatment.
Surgery is very rarely recommended for treatment of shin splints. However, certain conditions may require you to go under the knife, sometimes immediately. Such conditions include acute compartment syndrome or extreme inflammation of the periosteal tissue.
Statistically, most patients that have undergone surgery for shin splints have been athletes competing at a national and international level. Then a far smaller group of patients competing at much lower levels. And very rare cases of patients undergoing surgery that are not regularly engaged at competition level.
Shin splints is a very frustrating and painful condition. But by applying the shin splints treatment tips and shared here, you can quickly get back to neutral ground. From there its time to prepare yourself for pain free running.
I’ve personally experienced rapid results from applying these shin splint treatment techniques. Combined with a lot of patience and self-control not to rush back to exercise to soon.
Now it’s your turn!
Don’t be passive about your recovery. Take action! Give your body the best chance possible for a rapid full recovery. Start now and get back to pain free running and the sport you love.
Your first step should be to take my Diagnosis Quiz below to find out what type of shin splints you have. And if you have any questions, thoughts or comments I would love to hear them! Just leave a comment below…
Now put together your plan, get all the accessories and supplements you need and fast track your recovery starting TODAY!
To Your Happy & Healthy Future…