Whether you’re an athlete, a fitness enthusiast or simply trying your best to be healthy, you know very well that fitness is an integral part of our lives.
Nothing feels better than being on top of your physical game or getting your groove back after a long hiatus.
Therefore, we certainly also know all too well how frustrating it is to suddenly be debilitated by an injury like shin splints while doing physical activity.
Shin splints are deep, sometimes throbbing, sometimes dull ache that runs in the front part of your lower leg. It is the kind of pain that pops up while running or working out, disappears when you stop and then rears its ugly head again when you resume exercising.
There might be times you’re tempted to cry out in agony, “Why me?” Yes, why indeed? Let’s look at some reasons why you’ve been afflicted with shin splints.
What causes shin splints?
You just ramped up your workout regiment
You could either be one of the following: A couch potato who finally decided to act on their fitness resolution from 5 years ago, or a running newbie who wants to graduate from the beginner’s level of three kilometres per run to now clocking in five or more kilometres per run.
Whatever fitness state you are in, if you suddenly increased your workout intensity, there’s a high probability that it would have caused your shin splints.
This is because you get shin splints from overloading your leg muscles, tendons or shin bone at one time. If your shin bone and joints are not used to the sudden intensity or frequency of your amped-up workout regimen, this will naturally cause shin splints.
To help prevent shin splints, be patient and gradually increase your workout intensity.
You’re a runner or a dancer
The pain from shin splints is caused by excessive amounts of force on the shin bone. This is due to repetitive hard strikes of the foot or leg to a hard and solid ground like concrete or the dance floor.
Shin splints can happen to anyone, but it is mostly runners and dancers who get afflicted by it.
One way you can lessen the amount of impact your shins take from running or dancing, vary your workouts. Squeeze in some low-impact exercises like swimming, yoga or Pilates for recovery two to three times a week in between your running or dancing. If you’re a runner, try running on a trail instead of cement.
You’re not wearing proper shoes
Wearing shoes that don’t offer enough support and cushioning coupled with working out or running on hard pavement can easily trigger shin splints. As a rule of thumb, running shoes need to be replaced when they have tallied 300 to 400 miles (four to six months, depending how often you run).
Do not hesitate to spend on new and proper running shoes. It will be costlier when you’re often bogged down by injuries like shin splints!
Cool-as-ice shin splint relief
Just like for most injuries, ice comes to the rescue for shin splints. Why cold therapy? Also known as cryotherapy, it works by reducing blood flow to the affected area, which will significantly reduce inflammation and swelling. This will, in turn, lessen the pain.
But don’t just place ice immediately to your shins. There’s a proper method for that: the legendary, time-and-tested RICE method.
This is how you apply the RICE method when you get bogged by shin splints:
R – Rest
Stop physical activity immediately. Do not think that you can run away from the pain.
I – Ice
Ice your shins to ease pain and swelling. There’s a proper ice pack for this, such as Magic Gel’s Shin Splints Ice Pack. Made specifically for shin splints, these ice packs are flexible and come with straps so they wrap perfectly around your shins.
You need to ice your shins 15-20 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days or until the pain subsides.
After icing your shins, wear a compression sleeve or stocking to help reduce inflammation around the shins.
Some shin splints ice packs like Magic Gel’s Shin Gel pack have adjustable straps that wrap snugly around your legs, so they can also act as compression sleeves while icing.
Elevate your legs using a pillow or a desk. Find a comfortable position where you can raise your legs. Elevating your legs will reduce blood flow to the area which will assist in swelling reduction.
How long should you ice your shins?
We know that ice therapy is the ultimate “magic” ingredient in getting rid of shin splints, but for how long should you really ice your shins? Medical advice unanimously say a minimum of at least 20 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes. This should be done every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days every day or until the pain is gone.
Timing is crucial when healing shin splints with an ice pack. If you leave your shins iced for too long, you can actually risk getting frostbite. Check your skin from time to time while icing, especially when it’s beyond 10 minutes. If your skin looks red, it can be a sign that you’ve been icing way too long. When your shin feels numb, it’s best to stop icing.
On the other hand, if you ice your shin for less than 10 minutes, your legs or shins will cool, and you will feel temporary relief but the effect on the underlying issue will be minimal.
Beyond RICE and ice: how to ice your shins like a pro
To really get the maximum relief and healing benefits from shin splints, we need to do more than just RICE-ing and icing.
We’ve got two shin splint “hacks” that are guaranteed to give you results in three to seven days.
A massage incorporating cold therapy is one of the best-known secrets in sports injury therapy. Good news for those of us who can not afford sports or injury remedial massages: cryoballs are around. A cryoball is a new, cutting edge gadget that is often filled with a freeze-retaining saline solution so as to keep the massager chilled long after it has been out of the freezer. A cryoball will also increase in temperature upon skin contact.
Use the cryoball to give your shins a cool and gratifying deep muscle massage. In the beginning, this may feel like a shock, but it’s also a secret to healing from shin splints quickly.
Do strengthening exercises
A common misconception is that to prevent shin splints, one must strengthen the shins. The key is to actually strengthen the muscles and tendons around the shins so that your lower legs do not bear all the pressure. A resistance or stretch band is your best accessory for stretching and strengthening your leg muscles.
The resistance band’s goal is to help you stretch, strengthen and lengthen the muscle around your shins, making them stronger and more resilient. Not only will this help in a speedier recovery, but once your muscles around the shins get strong enough, you will less likely suffer from shin splints in the future.
Have you done ice therapy on your shins before? We’d love to know about your pain relief experience. If you wish to discuss or have any questions, just get in touch with us!