Posts Tagged by stretching

The Joys of Shin Splints

I’m sure your can sense the sarcasm in the title of this post.  Shin splints are the antithesis of joyful.  They are excruciating and all too common for runners.  I’ve had a few issues with shin splints in the time that I’ve been running and it seems like they have recently made a triumphant return.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling a slight pain on the inner side of my left shin, but it wasn’t until last night when both legs went into full shin splint overdrive that I knew I had to focus on healing this area of my legs again.

Shin splints are a way of describing pain in the lower shin area of the leg and most commonly is isolated to the front inside of your shin (tibia).  The symptoms can range from a dull ache during exercise to feeling tender to the touch at all times.  I’m lucky to suffer from both of these symptoms. Yay me!

Numerous factors can cause shin splints, including running on hard surfaces, overpronation of the feet, inadequate footwear, swollen muscles from overuse, or stress fractures.  But the most common cause of shin splints can be seen in the image to the right.  The periostium is a sheath surrounding the tibia bone.  This can become inflamed from overuse and friction on from the muscle…ouch!

So what do you do when shin splints pop up?  I’ve found a few tips and exercises that have worked for me in the past.  Time to pick these up again…

1. Ice, ice, and more ice.  Ice works miracles for inflammation.  Applying an ice pack for 20-30 minutes after exercise can do a world of good.  I’ve also recently found cold baths to be very helpful.  When the pain persists, I try to ice at least once a day even if I’m not exercising.  This is something I need to get better with.

2. Pain relieving gels.  These are products, such as BioFreeze and Perform (over-the-counter version), that can be helpful for temporary relief during and after exercise.  I’m interested in this new Bengay Zero Degrees product.  Has anyone tried it?  You keep it in the freezer and apply as needed.  Interesting concept…

3. Arch supports for your shoes.  A main cause of shin splints is overpronation, which is excessively rolling your foot inward as you run.  Orthotics, whether over-the-counter or custom made ($$), can help correct this and in turn help your shin splints.

Look…they come in fun colors!

4. Compression Sleeves.  These increase blood flow in your legs, which keeps your muscles warm and helps recovery.  I have yet to try these, but I have been considering it more lately.  I know many runners that swear by them during their races, and after my calf and shin pain following my last half marathon, I think they could really help.  For more information, check out this detailed look at compression socks over at The Science of Running.

5. Stretching!  This is something that has really helped me with my shin splints and other issues I’ve had while running.  I can’t stress enough how important stretching is.  I found this great video over on Fun and Fit that stretches both the shin and calf muscles.  They work together, so you must strengthen both!

I hope these tips help those of you that suffer from shin splints.  I know a few of them, the stretches in particular, have helped me!

Do you suffer from shin splints?  What do you do to ease your pain?

Just Keep Stretching: A Psoas Update

For the past 2 weeks, I am continually reminded of Dory from Finding Nemo as I repeat to myself “Just keep stretching, just keep stretching.”  Because I haven’t been able to run, I have been doing numerous stretches to work my psoas tendon and the rest of my leg muscles.  I’ve never stretched so much in my life!

Last week I finished my steroid pack and began physical therapy.  About 3 days into the steroids, the pain had significantly decreased, which is when I began stretching and doing some upper body exercises to try and keep in shape. On Friday, I had my initial physical therapy assessment where I found out that my left leg is 2 cm shorter than the right.  The therapist seemed perplexed on how to handle my injury…oh how I love to be a mystery to the experts.  She had me do a few stretches and told me I could start walking on the treadmill.  I made 2 follow up appointments for this week with my usual therapist who I saw for some shoulder issues last year.

I was feeling better over the weekend and began my walks (and continued stretching) on Monday.  The first day I made it 1.65 miles and the second day I went 2 miles.  It felt great to be moving again, but I still felt stiff.  When I went to therapy on Tuesday night, my therapist Will knew exactly what to do.  This is why I love him.  After some heat and a painful 6 minute massage of my tendon, he gave me better stretches that really exercised the source of the pain.  Here are 2 of my favorites: 

He also told me I need to baby the area.  Doesn’t he realize I have a race in less than 2 weeks?!  This was not what I wanted to hear.

Today, I’m still a bit sore from the massage, which was to be expected, but I decided I needed to at least continue walking.  I did 10 minutes of various leg stretches before starting and then walked for 20 minutes at a 17:15 pace.  The pace you must keep for a Disney race is 16 min/mile.  So I turned up the treadmill to 15:40 min/mile to see if I could do it and I was fine.  It wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be.  With my new found confidence, I thought “Let’s see if I can run!”  Will is going to be so mad at me when I go to therapy tomorrow, but you know what, I did it.  I RAN FOR A 1/2 MILE!!  At first it was painful and felt awkward, but as I kept moving the pain lessened.  I had only planned to try for a 1/4 mile, but I just kept going.  I was SO excited and it gave me renewed hope that even despite this injury I’ll be able to do this race.  I stretched for another 10 minutes and felt great with minimal pain in my leg.

Now this afternoon, I’m sore.  But despite that, my confidence is boosted (which has been lacking for the past few weeks) and my excitement is building.  I’ll do my heat and stretching combo tonight and continue to do this routine twice a day up until the race.  It’s really incredible how all of this stretching has not only helped with the pain in my psoas, but has made me so much more flexible over all.  I’m hoping this will help with my running for the long term.  Maybe I’ll try for a mile this weekend :)

All I need to do is keep reminding myself…JUST KEEP STRETCHING!