July 23, 2011

How to cure shin splints

Not really.  I don't know how to cure shin splints.

I do know how to deal with them, since I've had them for the last five weeks.

I started running about a year ago to increase my physical activity and get a healthy hobby.  It's blossomed and I've signed up for my first marathon this fall.  Last year, in total, I ran 500 miles.  Thus far this year, I've run about 600 - I've increased my mileage significantly and I remained injury-free through most of it.

And then it happened: shin splints.

I had/have a severe pain on my right shin on the inside.  I know what I did to cause it:  I tried to run really fast on the treadmill for too long.  The minute I finished and stretched my legs, I knew that I had damaged my leg somehow.  Little did I know that it would last for five weeks (and counting!).

Internet resources on treating shin splints seem pretty sparse.  There's the random forum and the pseudo-scientific websites.  You would think that a Google search for "treating shin splints" would reveal something helpful among the 240,000 results.

There are a few helpful resources herehere(kinda) here, and even a video.  None of that helped me.

Maybe I have mutant shins.  The ideas from those links were helpful to some extent, but the only thing that I could find that helped me was to relax, not run so much, and wear sandals.  Normal shoes killed my feet and I could almost walk normally in sandals.  While many in science can and do wear sandals in the lab, I refuse.  I work with too many biological and chemical hazards to have my little piggies out in the open.  Thus, I wore normal shoes, and my shin hurt almost every day for the last few weeks.

That brings me to my other shin splint-curing idea: lots and lots of pills.  I took so much ibuprofen and acetominophen over the last few weeks, and it helped... extraordinarily.  I am not an advocate for pain pills normally (if something in my body is hurting, I think it's better to address the problem rather than cover it with pain medication), my shins felt so much better.  The best: Bayer Back & Body.

Finally, I found that wrapping my shin splints worked really well.  I bought some athletic wrap and tape and kept my leg mummified for a while.  Using this taping, I was even able to return to a semi-normal running regime, and my shin didn't hurt nearly as much at lab.  For me, the best method was to wrap my entire shin in athletic wrap and then tape (rather tightly) above and below my shin splint.  There are other ways to do it (see this video, for example) and you can buy a shin splint wrap contraption (for $19.95...).  Since I'm cheap, I just taped my legs until they felt better.

Overall, the best way for me to treat my shin splints was to just be careful, wrap my legs, and take medicine.  Though I'm not sure this will help many others, at least I can learn from my shin splint experience.

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