How To Run With Shin Splints
“Shin splints are one of those annoying injuries that can happen to anyone at any time. You’re out on a run or walk when all of a sudden pain shoots up your leg and won’t go away. It’s not fun — especially if it happens often enough that you’ve gotten used to running with them. But don’t despair! They aren’t as painful as they sound, and there are some things you can do to treat them without having to take an extended break from running. Here are some tips to help you get through this injury.
First off, make sure you have them diagnosed correctly. If you just feel something in your shins, stop right away and call your doctor. Don’t try to figure out what’s wrong yourself, because chances are you’ll end up doing more damage by trying to self-treat. Your doctor will be able to tell whether the problem is minor (which could easily be ignored) or serious (in which case you may need surgery). And if you’re worried about going to the doctor, rest assured that most doctors are very understanding and willing to work with runners who have injured their legs. In fact, many sports medicine clinics were started after World War II because so many soldiers came home needing physical therapy after returning from war zones. Most medical professionals understand how running affects the body and know how to handle these types of problems.
Once you’ve been properly diagnosed, follow your doctor’s orders. He or she might prescribe ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve the inflammation caused by the sprain, but he or she may also recommend stretching exercises to strengthen your muscles around the affected area. The best way to stretch is to bend forward until you feel a slight pull in the muscle, hold that position for 30 seconds, then repeat three times. Hold each stretch for five long breaths before releasing the tension in the muscle. This exercise works particularly well for calves, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and glutes. Some people find that icing the area helps reduce swelling and stiffness, but only apply ice for short periods of time — keep it cool, not cold.
If your diagnosis indicates that you need surgery, you’ll probably want to give yourself plenty of time between procedures. A good rule of thumb is to wait two weeks after surgery before resuming normal activity. Afterward, you’ll be given crutches to use during recovery. These devices allow you to move freely within the first few days after surgery, but once you start using them less and less, you should begin moving around normally again. Keep in mind that recovering from knee surgery takes longer than other areas of the body, like knees and hips. Also, consider cross-training for a while to let your shin heal. When you return to running, increase your mileage gradually, no more than 10 percent per week. Make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your foot type specifically. Overpronators should wear motion-control shoes.
And speaking of footwear, avoid wearing high heels and pointy toe shoes. Both can put excessive stress on your feet and ankles, and both contribute to shin splint formation. High heels tend to raise the arch, putting pressure on the back of your foot and increasing pronation, a condition where the bones roll inward instead of outward. Shoes with low heels, flats or sandals are better choices. Pointy toes force you to lean into turns, further rotating your ankle and putting additional strain on your lower extremities. Choose shoes with rounded toes, wide soles and low heels.
In addition to avoiding high heels, choose narrow widths rather than wider ones. Wider shoes tend to spread your weight farther apart, causing your foot too much leverage for its size. Narrow shoes distribute your weight closer together, reducing the amount of movement needed to turn or swing your leg. For example, if you typically wear 1/2-size sizes smaller than your actual shoe size, try switching to full-sized shoes. That way, you’ll be getting a narrower fit that isn’t too loose. Loose fitting shoes also encourage your foot to roll excessively, leading to shin splints.”
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