--Insert adsense here--
The goal of shin splint rehabilitation is to reduce any current inflammation and pain, address biomechanical problems while running, and strengthen the legs to prevent future overuse injury. The best way to do this is to follow the steps of R.I.C.E.R., which will allow you to get back into running quickly.
After shin splint injury, immediate rest is required to prevent further damage to your legs and help you get back into being active quickly. If you fail to take time off from running and try to run through the pain, it will only get worse and will not heal. Many runners do not want to stop and will continue to train and race as if nothing as happened. This is a very bad idea because your shin muscles and attachment ligaments will continue to tear away from the shins, causing more damage. Shin splints is the result of too much running that the body cannot handle at that time and it slowly degrades the muscles, tearing them apart and causing pain. Constant running makes it impossible for the muscles to heal since they will continually be re-torn every time you go running. The best way to make a speedy recovery from overuse injuries such as shin splints is to stop the offending activity as soon as you start to feel pain. This may take some experience to know the difference between when you have discomfort from running and pain from injury, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Icing your shins is another way to reduce soreness and swelling and allow you to regain mobility in the legs. Once injured, muscles and tendons will naturally produce fluid that makes them swell and turn black and blue. This fluid causes excessive soreness that can be quite debilitating, so using swelling reduction methods is required to allow regular daily functioning of the athlete. Icing the shins will reduce swelling and allow the muscles to heal faster, which will, in turn, make it easier to get back to the running you love. In the beginning, it is good to apply ice along the shin at least 3 times a day for about 10 minutes at a time. Do not keep the ice on the leg for more than twenty minutes at a time since this can cause frostbite. Also, take care to wrap the ice in a thin layer so that the ice does not rest directly on the skin, which can cause damage over prolonged periods of time. Using ice baths or cold showers can also be an effective way to reduce swelling.
Taping is another method that can help to reduce inflammation and improve resting of the leg. Compression is the practice of tightly wrapping the injured area with a type of gauze or tape so that there is less swelling and greater protection of the injured muscles. This can be applied to any muscular injury, but is important in treating and rehabilitating shin splint injuries. Compression can be accomplished by using medical tape or gauze and wrapping the shin in a manner that will allow for movement but enough compression to prevent excessive swelling. Compression socks and calf sleeves can also be an effective way to support the muscles of the lower leg.
When a muscle such as the anterior tibialis (the shin muscles) is injured, it will naturally swell. Besides using ice and compression, elevating your legs is an effective way of reducing swelling and allowing the muscles to heal quickly. When you sit or stand all day, gravity makes it very easy for blood to pool in your lower legs and feet, but makes it more difficult for the heart to pump the old blood back to your heart. Since muscles and tendons will heal much faster in fresh, oxygen rich blood, it is smart to help your heart by elevating your feet so that it doesn't have to work as hard. This will help to remove some of the fluid caused by the trauma to your shins, thus reducing swelling, and will speed up your recovery time.
Finally, you should visit a doctor or physical therapist if you are in extreme pain or can not walk. This may indicate a more serious case or bone stress fractures, so it is good to get your injury checked out by a professional. They will be able to prescribe a more effective recovery regime and possibly drugs, if needed. Also, a professional should examine your biomechanics to determine if there is an underlying cause of the shin splints. They may be caused by overpronation or how your bones align while taking a running stride. These issues can often be adjusted by changing footwear or using orthotic inserts.
In addition to the standard steps outlined above, there are a couple other ways that you can try to rehabilitate your shin splint injury. Ibuprofen can be taken to reduce the swelling immediately after injury, but should not be used for an extended period of time or if you have asthma. Taking over the counter drugs can reduce swelling and pain, but also have side effects that can hurt you in the long run if you take them for a prolonged period of time. They should also not be taken before or during intense exercise since they have been shown to cause complications in some athletes.
Throughout your training and initial injury, gentle stretching of the shin should be performed but do not over-stretch the muscles. Sports massage after the first 3 days can also be beneficial to healing the injury. After the initial phase of rehab, perform strengthening exercises at least once a day to improve your muscle strength of the shins. This should only be done after at least two weeks of rest and recovery and you should gradually build up the intensity to prevent injury. Most importantly, when you return to exercise after a period of time off, increase the duration and intensity of the running gradually. Do not increase your activity level too quickly or else you will injure your shins again!