This week, I managed to pick up pain in my right shin while running. It has gotten progressively worse and is currently so painful that even walking is like being stabbed by a rusty nail. You’ll be glad to know that I have been here many times before and I have shin splints.
Since I can’t do anything for a couple of days, I thought that I would write a post about the things I have tried (and have worked) while trying to manage shin splints and heal up well enough to get back onto the treadmill.
What are Shin Splints?
The term ‘Shin Splints’ is a nickname for Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) which is a repetitive strain injury caused by repetitive impacts or stress. The condition is caused by cumulative stress or trauma to the bones, muscles and joints in the lower legs – usually caused by continuous activity. Shin Splints are very common for runners but also affect anybody training regularly at a high intensity.
The pain is almost always located at the front of the leg between the ankle and the knee and is most painful when pushing off from your toes.
I used to get them myself as a track runner and it was almost always caused by wearing my spikes too much.
The Best Way to Manage & Heal Shin Splints?
In my experience, shin splints tend to go away on their own and can be managed very easily yourself. It is simply a repetitive strain, so taking it easy for a couple of days will almost always fix the problem. In the meantime, you can do a couple of things to manage the pain and to help your shins heal quicker.
Get New Shoes with Support
Shin Splints are often your body’s way of telling you ‘You need new shoes’ or ‘You’re overtraining me!’.
A lot of runners (myself included) like to run their shoes into the earth and wait until they fall off their feet before replacing them. The soles of the shoes will become thin and lose the support they have for your ankles, putting extra stress on the muscles and bones in your shins. The impact is no longer being absorbed by the shoes and is travelling into your legs.
If this is the case, it is time to get new shoes. If you’ve never been fitted for proper running shoes then I can recommend that highly. Go to a purpose running shop and have one of the staff check out your gait and tailor some shoes for your feet.
Otherwise, if you’re a road runner then running on grass, or another soft surface, will do you the world of good. The impact from the hard roads can cause a world of pain and a softer surface may be all you need to help your legs recover, while still being active.
CBD Warming Balm
Recently, I came across some CBD warming gel in my usual running shop. So I decided to take a punt on it and see if it made a difference to my recovery – I can tell you it made a huge difference. I mostly put the gel on my knees before running (to warm them up and stop them from being so achy when I start). When I got my shin splints this time I started to massage a fair bit of the balm into my shins a few times a day.
CBD is an active ingredient from hemp, which is connected with being an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, as well as relaxing the muscles and helping them heal.
The benefits I have been feeling could be a placebo, but I am certain that the warming balm has reduced my pain and inflammation enough to be able to walk around the house without keeling over. When I compare how my legs felt before using the balm, and after, I am certain that there is a significant benefit to using a CBD sports balm.
Stretching and Exercises
Like all keen runners, I’d rather run through the pain than stop completely. It isn’t advised but it is what it is. While my legs are healing I like to take a more gentle approach to my training but not stop completely. Alongside my warming balm, I have been setting aside a couple of minutes to stretch and exercise my shins before hitting the grass.
I always do gentle calf stretches for both legs. The main one I do is stand on a step and slowly lower my heels off the edge, and slowly lift up again. This helps to stretch the calf and exercises the shin muscle.
The gentle stretching and activity strengthen the muscles and increases blood flow. Often I find that by doing something small, my shin splints heal much quicker and I do not need to take a break from my training.
If all else fails, then rest is the only surefire way to heal your shin splints completely. Take some time off training and keep up a routine of recovery exercises and massages. Generally, you can run right through shin splints but if they get so bad that you can’t continue, your best option is to stop completely.