Many people are discovering the benefits of regular physical exercise. Regardless of one’s weight, age and underlying health conditions, the advantages of being physically active are too significant to deny.
With long-term effects such as weight management, bone and muscle strengthening, improved mental health and living longer at stake, it’s not really surprising that many people still persist in maintaining a workout routine in order to get its benefits, which far outweigh the cons. A very common disadvantage that comes with living a very physically active lifestyle is the increased chances of running into injuries.
Shin splints: The usual suspects
What do runners, dancers, and military recruits have in common?
Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints affect over 30 percent of runners and over 22 percent of ballet or aerobic dancers.
Shin splints are the result of overused tendons and repeated high-impact stress on joints. It often afflicts those who have recently intensified or changed their workout routines. When you increase the intensity level of your physical activity, you are likely to overwork your muscles, tendons and bone tissue.
How do I know if I have shin splints?
Do you regularly exercise, or have you recently ramped up your workout? From this, do you suddenly feel pain and discomfort in your legs? Perhaps it’s time to do a quick check whether you have shin splints or not.
In general, here are some symptoms of shin splints:
You feel pain, soreness and tenderness along the inner side of your shinbone.
There might also be mild swelling on your lower leg. This is because shin splints are the product of repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone.
Your shins throb or ache after a quick dash or run (like a quick sprint from point A to B).
In the beginning, the pain from shin splints may seem to stop when you stop your movement or exercise. In some shin splints cases, the pain lasts throughout your run. When this happens, you should definitely get your leg checked by a professional as it could be a symptom of something more serious like a stress reaction or a stress fracture.
What causes shin splints?
Although it’s not something life-threatening, shin splints are still annoyingly painful. And if you ask athletes and fitness enthusiasts what bugs them the most about shin splints, most will be quick to say that it distracts them from their game and routine.
So, in order to prevent shin splints, we first and foremost need to know: What actually causes shin splints?
Many will tell you that running is often the main cause of shin splints. However, it isn’t really as simple as that. Yes, running is a common cause of shin splints, but there are other factors to consider. Let’s break them down:
Running on pavement or cement
Hard surface running can be a risk factor for shin splints. When you run on hard surfaces such as concrete, you are putting a lot of pressure on your muscles, joints and bones. Because surfaces like concrete and asphalt have no give, they contribute a great deal of shock on your tibia muscles. A nice solution to this is to vary your running grounds and workout schedule. You can incorporate trail running some days of the week as trail gives more cushion to the joints.
You’re wearing worn out or unfitted shoes
As a general rule, footwear that doesn’t have enough cushioning and support can lead to shin splints. Everyone has a different gait from one another. This alone is telling of the fact that people have different needs in shoes. There might be some who will need added motion control support and stability in their shoes while others may simply need enough cushioning. You want to be sure that the shoes fit your feet properly. Always remember to change running shoes every 300-500 miles.
You’re not stretching or strengthening your muscles enough
Shin splints occur when there’s a significant and repeated amount of impact applied on your lower legs. To prevent the shins bearing all of the pressure, you will need to strengthen the surrounding muscles of the shin, and those connected to it. Due to the location of shin splints, there’s a slight misconception that you must do shin exercises to prevent this. It’s more important to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the shin so that they can carry the weight and pressure off shins.
Exercising using resistance bands are a great way to prevent shin splints. This is why quality ice packs for shin splints like Magic Gel’s Shin Splints Ice Pack come with a stretch resistance band, an essential tool for quick recovery from shin splints. More than the recovery, they can also be used for regular exercise, so you can prevent shin splints from happening again.
Here’s an example of a workout using resistance bands in order to prevent shin splints is the seated calf stretch. This exercise strengthens the calves, which are located behind the shins. When calves are strengthened and stretched, they provide enough support to the shins.
To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, and keep your knees straight. Loop your stretch band around the front of your feet. Then, pull the stretch band towards you, keeping your foot flexed. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Try to keep your legs and feet flat on the floor. The only movement should be from the ankles as your feet flexes and relaxes.
You’ve recently taken up running
Being a healthy, long-time runner does have its rewards. The human body is amazing – it adapts and responds to stresses experienced by the body. Advanced runners are likely to have a stronger tibia (shinbone) because the years of running would have toughened it up. The body responds to the stress in the bone by gradually remodelling a thicker and stronger tibia.
This is why shin splints often strike less experienced runners whose bones haven’t yet adapted to the stresses of the high-impact activity.
A solution to this is to gradually increase your running or workout intensity. As you get stronger and fitter, it’s very tempting to push yourself more. Just bear in mind that the setback that occurs when you get afflicted with shin splints will probably undo the fitness level you’ve worked so hard to reach. Be patient and listen to your body.
RICE, the top treatment for shin splint relief
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, shin splints are bound to happen. Thankfully, shin splints can often be relieved from home.
A tried-and-tested approach to treating injuries, including shin splints, is the RICE method. Here is how it works:
R – Rest
The moment you feel pain on your shins and suspect you may have shin splints, decrease or completely stop all physical activities that trigger the pain.
I – Ice
Combined with rest, ice therapy helps reduce swelling. While you can make-do with ice bags, ice packs that are especially designed for shins are ideal. The tibia is the second largest bone in the body, so you will need an ice pack that covers the entire area effectively. Measuring 20cm by 23 cm, these Shin Splint Ice Packs are also flexible straight from the freezer, allowing it to perfectly wrap around your shins and calves.
In order to help reduce inflammation around your shins, it is advised to wear a calf compression around your legs. If you have an ice pack similar to this one, you get multi-use out of it because it can also act as a calf compression sleeve. These ice packs have straps made out of adjustable Velcro straps so that you can adjust how snug they fit around your shins.
E — Elevate
Elevate your shin above the level of your heart using pillows or anything you can prop your legs on. Due to gravity, blood flow will move away from the injured area, and this will help decrease with swelling and pain.
Do this every day until the pain subsides. After that, continue to rest for another two weeks before resuming physical exercise involving the shins.
Treating and preventing shin splints like a pro
If you want to treat and manage shin splints like a pro, it’s worth taking a look at Magic Gel’s Shin Splint Ice Packs. When you order them, you don’t just get a pair of ice packs, but also a stretch band for strengthening and stretching exercises, a cryoball for compression therapy and a 10-page detailed instruction manual to guide you on a 12-step process for fast recovery from shin splints.
The ice packs themselves are completely flexible even when taken straight from the freezer. This means that you can immediately get relief – no need to defrost or wait. The material is also crafted carefully so that no in-seams are exposed, ensuring the most comfortable and snug fit. The ice packs act both as cold therapy and compress to your shins. This is a big factor for fast healing and recovery – even in five to seven days.
The cryoball, which is considered the secret weapon in this shin splint ice pack, is used to massage the muscles around the shins and facilitates faster healing.
The stretch bands, as we now know, are important in exercising the areas around your shins so that they can also support and relieve pressure off the shins. The 10-page detailed instructional manual acts as a thorough guide in order for you to completely heal and get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Are you currently dealing with pain from shin splints? We hope we’ve been able to help you pick the best type of pain relief and ice pack for you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.