How To Prevent and Recover From Shin Splints

Brent Wells

tim tollefson running shin splints

Recovery for any injury to the body feels different for everyone and varies depending on the injury. There is always a process for the body to undertake when healing. 

Some processes of healing don’t take as long, while some cases of healing may take anywhere up to months at a time. We should be sure to never rush it. 

Some injuries can be prevented however there are other injuries that simply happen, and we don’t always have much control over the end result. 

What is a shin splint?

Medial tibial stress syndrome, otherwise known as a shin splint is a very common injury to the shin. The shin is the area on the front of the leg below the knee. A shin splint results in pain due to overuse whether from running, walking or any form of physical training or repetitive activity. 

The tibia bone is located where the shin is, and the pain is caused because of the inflammation to the area around that particular bone. The tendons, bone tissues and muscles are affected when that area is overworked. 

Many who engage in exercise are affected with shin splints seeing that they are more than likely to occur during or after some form of physical activity. Runners are one of the main groups at risk for developing shin splints. 

Gymnasts and dancers are known to develop shin splints also due to the repetitive movement and consistent weight-bearing being placed upon the legs. 

Sudden changes to your exercise regimen (generally an increase in an area), flat feet, improper footwear and working out on hard surfaces also play a part in increasing the chances of developing a shin splint.  

Other risk factors include:

  • Running downhill
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Improper training techniques

Symptoms of shin splints:

  • A dull or sharp pain to the front of the leg (shin)
  • Pain that worsens during or after you exercise
  • Pain in one or both legs
  • Pain that decreases with rest
  • Swelling in the lower leg
  • Muscle pain
  • Numbness in feet
  • Weakness in feet

What does the Recovery process look like?

Shin splints can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to heal, and in some cases, a week or two of rest from any vigorous activity can prove to be enough. 

2 to 4 weeks rest from any sports or heavy exercise is recommended, and walking is ok along with anything low impact, but you don’t want to push it, and cause more pain to the leg while it’s trying to heal. 

During recovery there are steps you can take to help further the treatment:

  • Ice or heat pack
  • Changing shoes
  • Low impact exercises:
  • Swimming
  • Water walking
  • Walking on soft surfaces
  • Stationary biking 
  • OTC medications
  • Elevate the legs and feet
  • Compression
  • Massage

Why is Stretching Important When Recovering?

While recovering it’s also important to remember to stretch out the area, preventing any extra stiffness or unintended pain. 

It’s also important to know that stretching helps to prevent shin splints from happening. Because a lack of flexibility due to a lack of stretching is a cause of shin splints, then incorporating proper stretching techniques can indeed help prevent them. 

One very common and helpful stretch is known as the toe stretch.

This is a stretch you can do each day taking less than five minutes to help loosen those tight muscles and keep them in a state where it’s not easy for that area to be injured once more. 

You can do this particular stretch/exercise sitting down in a chair, on a couch or even on the side of the bed, just be sure to use proper posture. Starting with both feet flat on the floor takes one of the feet and pull the toes and top part of the foot up as far as you can without causing pain.  

Hold that stretch for a minimum of 15-20 seconds and repeat on both sides 10 times. You can do this exercise more than once a day and also look into checking out other stretches that would be beneficial at this time. 

What are some Recovery Tools I can Benefit from? 

Along with the compression sleeves as a tool many use while healing, Sidekick’s Eclipse muscle scraper can help with faster recovery as well.

What is the Sidekick Eclipse?

The Sidekick Eclipse is a muscle scraper that many professional athletes use to help increase mobility during recovery. This particular tool helps to release scar tissues that have joined together under the skin, due to muscle injuries or overuse. 

It helps to improve blood flow to whatever area necessary and helps in loosening the muscles and joints, taking away any extra strain or pressure.  It can be used daily and in some cases more than once a day, to help bring relief to the muscles in recovery. 

Investing in the Sidekick Eclipse also includes how-to videos on how to use the tool, with those videos being led by a licensed chiropractor. You also gain access to Sidekick’s app that will generate personalized stretch classes for you to help you quickly recover from shin splints.  

Can a Chiropractor assist with treatment?

Visiting a chiropractor during your recovery state isn’t a bad idea. Chiropractors are trained specialists who assist with all types of pain within the body, and they are professionals in regards to helping to release tightness from the body. 

Seeking a trained chiropractic professional for shin splints can help in inducing blood flow to the area, and flexibility helping to further assist in the overall health of those specific joints and muscles. 

A chiropractor can reach the deep places beneath the muscles that at home stretches and exercises cannot. Even if you’re experiencing relief after the 2 to 4 week period, it’s important to take steps to ensure that the injury doesn’t reoccur. Seeing a chiropractor can assist in that prevention. 

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Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. He became passionate about being a chiropractor after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

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