Runners usually develop shin splints when they’ve been running on hard surfaces or when they’ve been faithful to worn-out running shoes for too long. Stretching is essential, and so is moderation, if you want to prevent recurrent pain from shin splints
Natural home remedies for shin splints
If you run regularly or do any kind of exercise that hammers the lower leg, there’s a chance you’ll develop shin splints. During exercise, muscles in the lower leg swell and press against the gap formed by the tibia and fibula, the bones that extend from the knee to the ankle. This pressure irritates nearby muscles, tendons or ligaments, causing pain along the outer calf (anterior shin splints) or inner calf (posterior shin splints). Posterior shin splints are common among people with flat feet, because leg muscles have to work hard to support the foot’s arch.
What you can do for shin splints
- Ice the injured shin to bring down swelling and dull the pain. Use a flexible ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables and keep it on for up to 20 minutes. To make sure you don’t get frostbite, put a towel between the ice pack and your skin.
- Instead of an ice pack, you can apply a lump of ice. Freeze water in a foam cup, then peel away the cup and press the solid ice to the shin. As the ice melts, just peel away more of the cup. If you use this method, however, limit applications to under 8 minutes at a time. And give the chilled skin a chance to warm up before you apply that ice a second or third time.
- Sit or lie down with your knees slightly bent. Flex the foot of the painful leg up and down, in and out, and in circles. Your leg should remain still. Repeat each motion 10 times.
- For a leg stretch that relieves shin-splint pain, start out in a seated position on the floor. Keep the painful leg outstretched, and the knee slightly bent. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot and, with the knee still bent, gently pull the towel toward your body. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times.
- As a follow-up, stand and place your hands against the wall at eye level. Keep your painful shin back, with the heel on the floor, and the uninjured shin forward. 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 for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat the same standing stretch, but this time cross the back leg behind the front one so most of your weight is on the outside edges of your feet. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- In a standing position, with one hand against a wall or chair for balance, bend the knee of your injured leg and grab the top of your foot. Pull the toes of that foot toward the heel to create a stretch in the front part of your shin. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
- Holding a chair or counter for balance, rise up onto your toes, hold for five seconds, then come down slowly. Repeat 10 times. Then do two more sets of 10.
- Alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of regular walking. Repeat four times.