The treatment of shin splints has proven to be difficult task for both experienced athletes and beginner runners. Some are able to get rid of the injury within a few days, while for others it may persist for several weeks or months.
It is possible to treat the injury with a combination of techniques such as shin splints exercises and stretches, proper shoe selection, supportive equipment and most importantly rest. Untreated and without rest, shin problems may persist for months and in worst cases years.
Successful recovery from the injury requires doing a combination of rehabilitation activities. It can be extremely frustrating to train at a high level and have shin splints take the edge out of your daily workouts. Many athletes have been there but have ultimately been able to resolve the problem.
There are multiple shin splints rehabilitation methods that may help you get rid of the injury. A long list of additional tips and tricks for shin splints can be found from our e-Book.
Main Treatments For Shin Splints
The main treatments consist of methods that are essential for to treatment and prevention of shin splints. They are techniques that directly work to address the root cause of shin splints instead of trying to directly attack the symptoms. Remember to always consult with your doctor before attempting any treatments on your own.
As soon as shin splints problems begin it is recommended to take a few days off. Begin your rehabilitation, stretching and strengthening exercises after you feel rested. This may be difficult mentally, but shin splints are a lot easier to treat in the early stages of the problem. It is better to miss a few workouts than suffer from shin splints for months.
Taking a few days off will allow you to recover better and help your shin splints in the long run. Many runners make the mistake of over-training, sometimes the progress to a better runner requires more rest than people give credit for. Resting is the most recommended method for treating shin splints.
Shin splints exercises
One of the main reasons you might be getting shin splints is that the muscles around the shin bone, pelvic region and ankles are too weak. Instead of merely resting, the most effective way is to actually try to attack the underlying cause of the problem, which might be due to muscle weaknesses. Muscle weaknesses in the lower leg, core and gluteal muscles might cause your shins get too much trauma from running.
Using an exercise band is a great tool for strengthening the lower legs with a proper resistance. Shin splints exercises are an effective way to battle the injury and prevents shin splints from resurfacing after the initial rest period. They will allow your body to work more as a single unit, leaving less risk factors for injuries like shin splints to occur
Shin stretches and massage
Just like muscle weaknesses, muscle tightness’s might also be causing your shin splints. Tight muscles around the calves or achilles might cause incorrect function of the joints, over-pronation problems or disturb your running technique, which all contribute to having shin splints. In some cases of shin splints, stretching has said to be ineffective, but it is an important part of overall recovery which also adds in your limbs range of motion and reduces the chances of running injuries.
Self massage can be used to relax the calf and foot muscles as well as enhance the blood flow in the area. It can relieve tightness’s and increase the movement of muscles. Self massage can be done without equipment, or by using a foam roller or a rolling massage stick. The benefits of massage are numerous as long it is being done in the proper way.
Shin splints stretches and massage should be part of your daily rehabilitation and could help to resolve the problem.
Wear the correct type of shoes
Shoe selection can be complicated, but it also essential for treating shin splints. Having the wrong type of shoe can highly increases the chances of developing shin pain, while running with a shoe that meets your needs can completely prevent it. Everyone has their own running style, body weight, experience level and bio-mechanics, which all affect what is the best shoe for you. For an active runner, shoes should be changed every three to six months.
Best shoes for shin splints is a simple guide for finding the shoes that are right for you. Proper running shoes can make a tremendous difference in reducing the impact on lower legs. Finding the right shoe is essential for any runner looking to avoid injuries and the correct type of shoe can differ greatly from individual to individual.
Avoid hard running surfaces
Running on a hard surface increases the impact and muscle trauma around your shins. Prefer running on the side of the road that is not paved, run on dirt or grass, and change your running direction if you are running on a track. Shin splints are related repetitive stress which is often a result of training that doesn’t have enough variation.
Avoid roads with concrete a lot of hills as they can also further stress your shins. Harder surfaces create greater impacts and make your anterior tibialis muscle work a lot harder. A good alternative for track and field athletes is to run on grass until shin splints pain has subsided.
Strengthen core and glute muscles
The reason why your shins might be inflamed is because of weaknesses in core and gluteal muscles. Weaknesses in these muscle groups typically leave too much force for your shins to handle. Reactivating and strengthening your core and gluteal muscles is key in preventing painful shin splints.
Having a balanced body with the correct type of functional strength is one of the main ways of running pain-free. Improving the stability of the core and function of the pelvis could be the solution for attacking the actual cause for shin splints. Your body works as one unit and having muscle imbalances and weaknesses can be the cause for you shin splints. Focusing on functional full body strength leaves less vulnerabilities for injuries.
Supportive Shin Splints Treatments
Support treatments for shin splints consists of methods that help in reducing the pain and inflammation of the shins. Their main focus is to attack the symptoms of the shin splints and subdue the pain. Supportive treatments should be used along with the main treatments that deal with the root cause of shin splints
Ice therapy for shins
Take a 10 minute ice bath after every running session. Alternatively, use paper cup with frozen water and gently ice massage the area of inflammation with it up to four times a day. A regular ice bag can also be applied for the same duration if ice baths or ice massages are unavailable.
Using paper cups with ice is another great way to have targeted cold therapy and massage for the shins. Ice reduces the inflammation and can speed up the recovery, but it is only a recommended as a treatment for shin splints for first two weeks of the injury.
Hot and cold therapy
As a replacement for icing – taking turns placing your lower leg to cold and hot water for 5 minutes at a time can increase the blood flow, help with the muscle tensions and enhance recovery. Cold and heat can also be used in a sauna or steam room. However heat shouldn’t be used often if the shins have a lot of inflammation.
Contrast bathing is a great tool for recovery purposes and can be done at home. The proper temperatures for contrast therapy should be around 110 and 65 Fahrenheit. You can place two buckets next each other and switch for every 5 minutes. Please take note that hot water is not often the best option if you have a lot of inflammation on the shins.
Taping shins with kinesiology tape
Taping your shins with kinesiology tape before running is one way to reduce the stress on your shins and increase the blood flow through compression and heat. It can also add support and take the extra load of your muscles.
Several athletes have found help for their shin splints using kinesiology tape. Taping can be done by yourself by following the right guide. Refer to our guide on shin splints taping to find out exactly how to do it and which tape to use.
Ultrasound, graston technique and electric stimulation (EMS)
Using ultrasound, moving slowly on the area that is inflamed with slow circles enhances the blood flow in the deeper areas around the shin. Graston technique relieves the tense muscles and helps with the circulation.
Alternatively some track & field athletes have got help with electric muscle stimulation – using light pulses on the calves to loosen them up, increase blood circulation and even address the pain. Electronic muscle stimulation can also be used for straightening exercises while injured.
Compression sleeves for extra support
Compression socks provide extra support for the aching and tired calf muscles. They support the muscles and reduce vibration and stress on every step of a run. Putting pressure on the shins with compression helps decrease inflammation. Many runners have got help for their shin splints wearing them.
Compression sleeves save your lower leg muscles from some of the extra work and stress. Many of the methods of treating shin splints require owning some additional equipment. Check out our recommendations for compression sleeves and other shin splints equipment.
Shin splints can be a difficult injury to treat. What works for others may not work for everyone. There are also several home remedies that might help in defeating shin splints. Let us know on the comments below on what helped you get rid of shin splints.