Ah, shin splints. A brand new addition to my running vocabulary, just three months into it. Not that I asked for it mind you. After a three mile run, I came home and felt my left shin really tender and sore. Massaging didn’t help and after a lot of research, found out I had this spanking new injury that I’ve never had before called shin splints. First thing I did in treating shin splints was R.I.C.E. which is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. That kinda helped, but I couldn’t get the pain out completely. Looking back, what I remember was that I had recently switched from running on grass and gravel (soft terrain) to asphalt. Of course, I was running with my Vibram Five Fingers at that time. Not quite barefoot yet.
Treating Shin Splints
Shin splints are caused my cumulative stress injury, as opposed to acute injury. When you first start running, your muscles get strong fairly quickly, but the ligaments, tendons, bones, etc. take a while, creating an imbalance. The harder the surface you run on, the higher the differential in the amount of impact amongst these and you end up with shin splints. If you are not careful, shin splints can result in some nasty injuries (like stress fractures) and treating them as soon as you feel them is imperative. R.I.C.E. and switching to soft terrain (like grass) definitely helps tremendously in treating shin splints. But I found three other home remedies that worked like magic for me.
The first of the three is heel walking. Walk bare feet on your heels for 10 to 20 steps at a time. It’s kinda weird at first, but then you realize you are actively stretching the muscles around your shin to help with the blood flow. This is still such a favorite warm up for me, even though I haven’t gotten shin splints since. The second involves a golf ball. One thing I noticed when I had shin splints was that the bottom of my feet (around the arch) was really sore. I dropped a golf ball on a yoga mat (for some friction) and then pressed my bare foot on a golf ball (while standing) and rolled it back and forth for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. This was the most amazing sensation ever! The golf ball really helped in working the scar tissues on the muscle band that runs from your knees, through your shins and down to your feet. The finale was a simple stretch on a foam roller. Kneel down with a straight back on a yoga mat and place the top of your toes on a foam roller. Breathe and hold for 20 seconds. Now move the foam roller closer to you so that the top of the mid-foot is on the foam. 20 seconds later, move the foam closer still so that the foam is directly on top of the ankles. Here’s a short video that demonstrates how I ended up treating shin splints at home.
On a side note, this is my very first video on running. Can’t believe how camera shy I really am – lots of stuttering, mis-pronunciation, stammering, etc. I have given gazillian talks on technology and love an audience, but I suppose when it comes to talking about my own body, I’m still a newbie. Oh well, done is better than perfect, I suppose. It can only get better from here right?
With the heel walk, golf ball and the foam roller, treating my shin splints took just a week and I was out running again! The craziest cure I’ve ever heard for shin splints is blue cheese! Turns out it’s not the enzymes in the cheese that help with the treatment, but the fact that refrigerated blue cheese can make the cold last longer while it’s on the skin than a cold pack. What did you do when you got shin splints?