Whether you like to run, play basketball, or stomp your feet when you don't get your way, the pain caused by shin splints can force you to the sidelines. Shin splints -- or medial tibial stress syndrome, if you want to be all sciencey -- occur when too much force is repeatedly placed on nearby connective tissue. (How much is too much depends on the person.) And while we know you're obviously enough of a badass to play through the pain, we still suggest you try these remedies ASAP.
You don't need to be bedridden, but you should refrain from activities that require repetitive impact on hard surfaces or involve the same muscles as running. Try biking, swimming, or running in the shallow end of a pool if you're one of those guys who can't sit still.
• ELEVATE YOUR LEGS
When you're just sitting around, elevate your shins above your heart and take anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce swelling. It's tough to recline like that at work without looking like a lazy-ass, so sneak it in while you're reading or watching TV.
• ICE YOUR SHINS
Icing an injury is almost always a good idea since the cold constricts blood vessels and reduces inflammation. Try to ice your shins for 10-15 minutes up to four times a day, and be sure to do it after stretching or exercising. To prevent your skin from feeling like it's being iced with napalm, always wrap the ice in a towel or washcloth.
• USE COMPRESSION
Use an elastic bandage or compression sleeve to apply pressure to the injured area. But if the pain gets worse, the area becomes numb, or your foot starts turning blue, loosen the wrap. Duh.
• STRETCH YOUR LEGS
Stretching the muscles of your lower legs will help build new collagen, speed repair, and strengthen and increase flexibility -- all of which will make you less susceptible to shin splints.
• CHOOSE THE RIGHT RUNNING SHOES
Your shoes need to fit your foot type. If you overpronate, you have flat feet that roll inward too much when you step. If you underpronate, your feet don't roll inward enough. (A good athletic shoe store should be able to analyze your step.) There's no magic formula for when to replace your shoes -- anywhere from 200 to 500 miles -- but generally, if your body suddenly starts to hurt, it may very well be because of your shoes.
• RUN ON SOFT SURFACES
Running on concrete or asphault can cause and aggravate shin splints. So if possible, choose grass, dirt, or bouncy castles.
• SUPPORT YOUR ARCHES
Along with well-cushioned shoes that fit your foot type, arch supports and orthotics help soften and disperse the stress on your shinbones. Try the relatively inexpensive off-the-shelf ones at pharmacies or Target. If they don't cut it, you may need to head to a podiatrist for orthotics made from casts of your feet.
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