CINCINNATI - Maybe you're a new runner. Maybe you're already a runner who's recently increased your distance or started hill training. Either way, if you run, you've felt the burn of shin splints.
The bad news is you can't ignore them, otherwise you run the risk of suffering serious damage from stress fractures. The good news? You don't have to stop your workouts, and with a few simple modifications, you can stay active!
Here are 9 ways I've found to ease the pain:
1. Prevent shin splints from occurring in the first place. Start your workout with a warm up. Getting that blood flowing to the tissues and loosening up your muscles makes an injury much less likely.
2. Don't work through the pain. I like to decrease my distance when I feel a shin splint coming on. If you normally run five to six miles, there's no harm in scaling back and doing two miles. You'll still get your cardio in, and you won't make things worse. I also like to mix up my workouts, so I'll move into activities like yoga and kickboxing when I'm suffering from shin splints. Yoga has actually helped me speed up my recovery rate!
3. Ice the affected area. Icing your shins helps reduce inflammation. An ice pack works, but most runners have told me they prefer freezing water in a Styrofoam cup, then peeling back the Styrofoam and massaging their shins with the ice.
4. Take Aspirin. An over-the-counter pain reliever can help dull the pain brought on by shin splints.
5. Tape or wrap your leg. Applying some pressure to the affected area helps me power through a few runs. You can wrap your leg (start from the ankle and wrap all the way up to just before your kneecap) with an Ace bandage, or you can purchase a compression sleeve.
6. Find a softer surface. A hard surface, like cement, can lead to shin splints for many runners. Go off the grid a little: Can you run on the grass next to the sidewalk? What about hitting up a softer track at your local gym or community center? This extra cushion from a softer surface will make your run a bit easier.
7. Don't head for the hills. Incline training is fantastic for those of you running to burn fat and lose weight. But, it's known to cause shin splints in many runners, particularly when running downhill. If you're dealing with shin splints, try a flatter surface while you're recovering, or walk the hills; you'll still get good cardio intervals in without putting as much stress on your legs.
8. Try these exercises. The Internet is full of great stretches and exercises you can do to build up your calf strength and alleviate shin splint pain. I've tried these stretches and found the pain in my legs greatly reduced!
9. Shoes, shoes, shoes. I guarantee the right shoes make a difference. If you're running and you're not using running shoes, you're all but asking for shin splints. Consult an expert at any shoe or fitness supply store to see which shoe best fits your needs. You can even get insoles that will add more cushion, alleviating your shin splints during runs.
What are some of your go-to remedies when you're dealing with shin splints? I'm always looking for ways to speed my recovery and prevent injuries, so if you've got a good method, share it with the #9Fitness community by Tweeting with me @jennyfromthebak and including the hashtag #9Fitness. Happy running!