What Do Shin Splints Feel Like
“Shin splints are a common injury for runners and walkers, but what exactly do they feel like? Read on to find out some signs that you might have them.
First off, let’s talk about what happens when we run or walk — it takes a lot more energy than walking alone, so that means our muscles need extra fuel. We provide this extra fuel through glycogen stores in our liver and muscles. When we exercise, these stores become depleted, which causes us to lose strength. This is called “”glycogen depletion.”” So if we go without food before exercising (which is known as fasting), our muscles will only last so long before glycogen runs out completely. In order to replenish our glycogen levels, we must eat carbohydrates and protein within an hour of finishing exercise. Without enough carbs or proteins, our muscles can’t rebuild themselves properly.
This is why the symptoms associated with shin splints occur during the initial stages of running or walking. The pain occurs because our muscles aren’t getting enough nutrients to repair themselves. If you’ve experienced shin splint pain, then you know all too well how uncomfortable it feels. But why does it happen in the first place?
The muscles that make up our lower legs connect to our bones at one end and attach to other parts of our body at the other. These include our feet, ankles and shins. Our shinbones (tibia) sit right below where the leg meets the foot. It’s important to understand that our muscles act as shock absorbers between the bone and the rest of our bodies. They also help keep our joints lined up correctly. Muscles are usually made up of two main fibers; one of them contracts to create movement, and the other one relaxes to allow for movement. A healthy contraction and relaxation helps move our bones smoothly, protecting our joints from damage.
But sometimes, our muscles can over-contract, causing tightness and even spasms. Muscle spasms cause painful knots that form around the muscle tissue. This can result in inflammation, swelling and bruising. If the knot becomes larger than it should, it can cause pressure on a joint. As pressure builds up, it becomes harder for fluid to flow freely, causing stiffness. Stiffness makes it difficult to bend our limbs. And since our muscles don’t work properly, our bones begin to rub together, creating friction. Friction hurts!
So now you know what shin splints are and how they occur. Next, read on to learn how to prevent shin splints from happening in the first place.
If you’re worried about shin splints, but you haven’t been injured by one yet, take a look at this list of warning signs of shin splints. You may not recognize any of these indicators, but hopefully, you’ll notice something that looks familiar.
Signs That You Might Have Shin Splints
A sudden sharp pain that starts in the front part of the lower leg and goes down toward the ankle
Pain that gets worse with certain activities such as running or standing
Injury that lasts less than 48 hours
Swelling or tenderness
Tender spots on the skin
Preventing Shin Splits
There are several ways to reduce chances of suffering from shin splints. First off, try wearing better shoes. Shoes that are too narrow can pinch the toes and make it hard to walk comfortably. Wearing shoes with plenty of room in the toe area can relieve pressure on sensitive areas. Also, consider using special inserts to add support under your arch. Your doctor can discuss these options with you to see which ones best suit your needs.
Another way to protect yourself from shin splints is to stretch before running. Take 10 minutes to warm up your muscles before heading outside. Start slow and gradually build up your speed. Running barefoot isn’t recommended, however, due to the risk of blisters. Blister prevention techniques can help you avoid this problem altogether. Many experts recommend icing your shins immediately after running to reduce discomfort.
Finally, use ice packs to limit swelling and minimize pain. Try elevating your legs above the level of your heart to encourage blood flow to the area. Elevate the affected limb higher than the unaffected side to reduce swelling. After 24 hours, apply heat therapy to soften scar tissue.
Now that you know what shin splints feel like, and how to treat them, you’re ready to start preventing them from occurring. For additional information on treating injuries and keeping your family fit and healthy, follow the links on the next page.
When running, remember to pay attention to your posture. Keep your head straight and back relaxed. Don’t lean forward excessively. Instead, focus on maintaining good balance.”
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