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Reasons to Run: Home remedies for shin splints

Published: Friday, Jan. 28 2011 5:17 p.m. MST

Injuries are the bane of a runner’s existence.

It’s hard to be more pathetic than I am while injured. I find myself jealously watching other runners and wishing my injuries upon them. This is not a healthy way to live life, but oh, how I come to loathe elliptical, bike, and pool running, which should be called “controlled drowning” in my opinion.

For the past year I have been a slave to the “Injury Cycle,” which consists of enjoying good health and feeling invincible, getting injured, cross-training/hating life, healing enough to start running, doing too much too soon and getting injured again.

The only benefit of this is that I gain ‘injury experience’ and can now share with my fellow injury-loathing runners. Keep in mind that I am by no means a doctor, just an injury-prone, running-loving fool.

One common injury that is as vulgar as a four-letter word to runners everywhere is shin splints. The name alone inspires fear.

A “shin splint” can come in many forms, but is generally a sharp pain along any part of your shin bone — inside or outside — or sometimes for the extra unfortunate, both.

Shin pain is most likely caused by extra tight calf muscles, which pull on the muscle by your shin bone, which in turn causes inflammation, and yes, the muscle is actually “splinting” or in extreme cases, tearing away from the bone.

It’s hard to stretch and even harder to ignore.

Last spring when I was first introduced to shin splints, I thought it was something I could “run through,” but then again I usually think that way with my injuries.

Denial of pain is a classic sign of an over-enthusiastic runner. Try to avoid this mistake. By paying attention to pain in your body, you can prevent most injuries. It’s better to rest a little when you feel initial pain than it is to become best friends with an elliptical later on when the pain becomes serious.

I wish I would have taken my own advice.

Here are some home remedies for shin pain.

Stretching

First, recognize that your shins are merely the symptom, while your calves are the actual problem. Start by stretching your calves as much as possible. Using stairs or a curb hang your heel off the end to get a deep stretch.

Also, try this stretch: Put your feet together while standing; turn the foot of the hurting leg to the inside (the bottom of the turned in foot should be facing and touching the opposite foot) then bend down and touch your feet.

Hold all stretches for around 30 seconds and repeat them a few times. Each time, you should be able to stretch a little farther.

Massage

I know this sounds strange, but go to your kitchen and dig out your rolling pin. They sell products that do this for you, but if you’re cheap like me, use your excellent wedding present to “roll out” muscles instead of dough.

While pressing hard, roll up and down your calf. When you find a sore spot or a feel a hard knot, spend extra time rolling in that area to help loosen it up.

Ice

Strapping ice to yourself or dunking your leg in a bucket of ice is good, but ice-massage is by far the best.

Get some paper cups and fill them not quite full with water. Put them in the freezer. Once frozen, tear down the paper far enough to expose the ice.

Using circular motions, massage and ice your calves anywhere from 5-15 minutes.

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