Healing Shin Splints

Woman's shins

If you have experienced pain or swelling in your lower leg, you should probably research healing shin splints in order to get relief from this exercise-induced condition. Fortunately, you can easily find ways to relieve your discomfort with home care.

Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is caused by overuse of your shin muscles through exercising too much or too intensely for your body. You may experience pain or tenderness in the inner or outer side of the front of your leg, often affecting your tibialis anterior muscle on the front of your lower leg. Sometimes, the pain can actually originate from the bone itself.

Runners are often at risk for shin splints. When you jog or run, you are placing enormous pressure on your leg muscles and joints. If you ramp up your program, you increase your risk. This is not to say that you should not engage in these types of aerobic activities. It is an important lesson about physical fitness that you must learn; listen to your body.

Healing Shin Splints: Various Methods

Rest

The most important method of healing shin splints is rest. If your body is injured, it needs time to heal. It is perhaps unfortunate that when you incur a leg injury, you must refrain from exercise. Your rest period will be determined by the severity of the injury and your body's ability to recover. Sometimes, treatment may involve bed rest in order to completely heal. You should plan on at least one week of rest.

Ice

If your leg is swollen, you can apply ice to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Place an ice pack on the affected area for 20 minutes, twice a day. You should make sure and wrap your ice pack in a towel. Your object is to cool the area, not to freeze it.

Using ice uses your body's physiological response to cold in order to reduce your swelling, not unlike going outside during cool weather. Rather than cooling your blood, your body will concentrate your blood's circulation in the center of your body to distribute heat to vital organs. Your body will then slow circulation at the area of the ice pack in order to conserve heat, thereby reducing the swelling from fluid build-up.

Pain Medications

In addition to ice, you can also take a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These medications will reduce pain caused by swelling and put you on the road to healing shin splints. Be sure and follow the label directions for dosage.The important thing to remember when using either ice or medications is to continue with your rest. These measures may temporarily relieve pain making you feel better, yet the actual recovery time will take longer. In order to completely heal, refrain from running or other weight-bearing activities for two to four weeks to reduce the risk of re-injuring your legs.

Risk Factors

Rest and other treatment options should heal your shin splints. If you are not experiencing improvement after several weeks of home care, consult your doctor. While your symptoms may mimic shin splints, your condition may be more serious.

Typically, the pain of shin splints occurs when you either palpate the affected area or are actively using your leg muscles. If you find that you are in constant pain, likewise, plan on seeing your doctor. Rather than shin splints, you may have stress fracture.

Preventing Shin Splints

The best way to prevent shin splints is to know your limitations. Ease into new or more intense activity slowly to give your body time to adjust. If you are planning to increase your speed, distance, or frequency of activity, do so gradually, especially if you are new to these workouts.

Most importantly, do not exercise through the pain of shin splints. If you do, there is a risk that you will do further damage. You may also assume an unnatural posture while exercising which can place additional strain on your muscles or joints.

Fortunately, most cases of shin splints can be treated at home. With rest and other ways to relieve your symptoms, you will soon be hitting the trails again.

Healing Shin Splints