Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant
You’re finally done with that brutal three-mile run.
As you walk up the driveway, sweaty and out of breath, you feel shooting pains in your lower legs.
You reach down and touch your shin. It hurts like a bruise.
Also known by the medical term medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints involve sharp, shooting pain in the lower legs. They’re extremely common sports injuries in runners – especially newbies. This type of injury is caused by continuous stress on the lower leg muscles, which leads to inflammation where the muscles attach to the shin bone.
Common warning signs of shin splints include:
- Soreness in the lower leg
- Tenderness over an area that is at least one inch in length
- Aching, throbbing pain in the front lower leg
- At first, pain occurs only after running; but can develop to occur while running, also.
If you think you might have shin splints, a medical professional can perform an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential causes of leg pain. Shin splint recovery usually involves a combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medicine, icing, and rehabilitation exercises.
Specifically, lower leg stretches and heel walking can help you manage your shin splints and get you back on track. Here is a few shin splint recovery stretches to try:
Standing calf stretch
- Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at eye level.
- Keep your injured leg back with your heel on the floor.
- Keep the other leg forward with the knee bent.
- Turn your back foot slightly inward, as if you were pigeon-toed.
- Slowly lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Return to the starting position. Repeat three times. Do this exercise several times each day.
Standing toe raise
- Stand with your feet flat on the floor.
- Rock back onto your heels and lift your toes off the floor.
- Hold for five seconds and then put your toes back on the floor. Do two sets of 15.
- Sit on a hard surface with your injured leg stretched out in front of you.
- Loop a towel around your toes and the ball of your foot and pull the towel toward your body keeping your leg straight.
- Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times.
Anterior compartment stretch
- Stand sideways next to a wall or chair with your injured leg further from the wall or chair.
- Rest one hand on the wall or chair for balance.
- Bend the knee of your injured leg and lean forward to grab the front of your foot.
- Bend the front of the foot toward your heel. You should feel a stretch in the front of your shin.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
Shin splints are painful running injuries. Remember: never try to run through the pain, because this can make it worse and potentially lead to a stress fracture. When returning to a running program shin splint recovery, be sure to gradually increase your mileage. Starting out too strong can risk re-injuring the area.
If you have severe leg pain from running, stop by a GoHealth Urgent Care location nearest you.
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