Not everyone gets shin splints, so for those of you who don't, I hope you're enjoying your pain free life. For those that do, you know that it hurts like the dickens, and nothing really seems to help. Of course prevention is the best method, but sometimes that doesn't work either. Especially if you're ready to go back out, but can't for fear that you'll make your shin splints worse. I've actually picked the brains of a personal trainer regarding this, so here is what I've learned (along with my personal experience).
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Those of you who don't know what shin splints are, that's probably because you don't get them. But they are micro-tears in your muscles that are attached to your tibia (shin bone). As one would suspect with the word "tear", it takes time to heal once that happens.
As mentioned before, prevention is supposedly the key. Yes stretch before you do anything, and it's best to slowly build up the speed. For example, if you're running, then walk/speed walk for 5 minutes before getting into your full speed jog/run. I'm good about doing that when I go on the treadmill, but if I run outside, I'm bad about following my own advice. Also sometimes it doesn't matter how much you stretch or warm up, those pesky shin splints still occur. So with my continued griping, a friend gave me an idea about finding a brace of some sort. Quick search later, these things actually existed! Which brings me to the calf compression sleeve I decided to get.
The 2XU Compression Calf Guard is a unisex model made with PWX (Power-Weight-Flex), a special premium compression fabric. This calf sleeve is made with a powerful, breathable material made to decrease muscle damage by containing them, as well as having moisture management properties. It's made of 80% nylon and 20% elastane. You get a pair (so two sleeves) in the box, making it easy to switch between the two or wear both at the same time. Luckily I usually don't get double shin splints.
The main gripe I read on reviews when I first bought these is that the length is too short. As in, the surface area covered isn't enough. It's silly really, since if you look at the box picture it shows that it doesn't go all the way down to your ankles. I think this would be a bigger issue if you're a man, but as an average height woman, it works for me. It stops about an inch below my knee and extends to about an inch above my ankle. I tend to get my shin splints toward my ankle, and this sleeve covers the area perfectly. I do find that the sleeve works better if I don't already have a shin splint (which makes sense), and I do feel that it keeps my muscle compartments where they're supposed to be. Also true to advertisement, this thing is great for "moisture management". I sweat like crazy, and this doesn't get soaked. And yes, my legs sweat too, I'm gross.
After working out there are a few things that could help you out:
- Stretch again
- Ice your shins (or use something like Icy-Hot)
- Massage your shin/muscle. You can use a tennis ball or frozen water bottle to roll along your shin
- Give at least a day break in between attacking your shins
- Do other forms of exercise while you recover (elliptical, swim, bike, etc)