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.
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.
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.
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.
Again, when you find sore spots and knots, rub a little harder. Ice massage gets deeper than simply using an ice pack and is a much better use of time. Do this at least three times a day. More is better.
These three steps should be done in order and daily for best results.
Also note that most injuries occur because you’ve asked your body to do more than it was ready to do.
Tracking your miles
Start logging your miles to makes sure you don’t increase your training too much before you’ve adequately adapted to the impact. Keeping track of your miles can also help you determine when your shoes are worn out (usually between 300-500 miles).
Old shoes may not be cushioning your feet and legs enough anymore, thus shin splints.
When shin pain first shows up you can try running on softer surfaces, such as grass, to reduce jarring on your muscles. Also, look into some kind of a compression sleeve or sock. A sleeve or sock will increase blood flow in your lower leg, which, in turn, speeds up recovery time and reduce jarring on the muscle.
Finally, check with your local running store to see if you overpronate when you land while running, meaning your ankle turns inward farther than it should.
This causes extra movement in your calf muscles, which could be causing inflammation. If this is the case, running on softer surfaces will not help. Instead, get a shoe with extra stability to help correct your pronation.
A stability shoe can be determined by looking for a dark, dense gray material on the inside of the shoe near the arch. Be careful with this, however, because if you do not overpronate, a stability shoe can hurt you by pushing your foot too far in the opposite direction, which will also cause injury.
Find someone who can watch you run and determine what you need.
Throw some ice cups in the freezer, keep a rolling pin handy, start listening to your body and beat those shin splints like Jimmer beats well everyone.
Cecily Lew is a senior athlete at BYU and is a two-time All-American in cross country and track.