Preventing Shin Splints with Compression Stockings
Guest Post by Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.
Maybe you just started a new fitness program. Or you started increasing distance on your runs. If you notice pain in your shins, you may have shin splints. This condition typically occurs after upping your physical activity and can be extremely painful. Today we’ll give an overview of shin splints and how you might prevent them by using compression stockings.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints occur when the muscles and/or tendons around your shinbone become inflamed. Most commonly, inflammation starts on the inside edge of your shinbone. You’ll feel dull or sharp pain along your shinbone that is made worse by touching it or exercising. It may also swell up.
What causes shin splints?
Simply said, shin splints are caused by repetitive motion and weight bearing on your legs. For this reason, runners, soccer players and dancers are more affected by shin splints. Shin splints are commonly caused by increased intensity or frequency of exercise. However, there are other factors that may be influencing your shin splints, including:
- Flat feet: Sometimes flat feet can put more pressure on your joints and tendons and wear them out more easily. If you have flat feet, you’ll want to get inserts or special shoes to minimize this effect.
- Unsuitable or old sports shoes: Make sure your sports shoes support your feet and aren’t worn out. Old sports shoes, or those that aren’t unsuitable for your workout, can put unnatural and heavy pressure onto your legs.
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces: You should always run on flat, supportive surfaces. Uneven or hard surfaces could increase tension in your muscles and tendons.
- Being overweight: If you’re overweight, try to lose some pounds. Being overweight can put extra weight on your legs and cause unnecessary strain.
- Not warming up or cooling down: Make sure your muscles are ready for a long or intense workout by warming up. Especially if you’re going on a run, you should stretch muscle groups in your legs so that they’re nice and fluid for your workout.
- Weak ankles and/or tight calf muscles: Having a weak spot can place extra pressure on your shinbones. For example, weak ankles or tight calf muscles are both common issues that can transfer weight to other parts of your body. If you want to avoid this, work out your weak spots so that your body is better balanced.
What conditions can cause shin splints?
In some cases, shin splints can also be the result of an underlying condition. You’ll want to consult a doctor to make sure you don’t have:
- Stress fracture: A stress fracture is a small crack in your shinbone. This is distinct from shin splints, which are simply inflammation around this area.
- Tendinitis: Tendinitis happens when tendons become inflamed or torn. This causes especially painful shin splints if a tear is involved.
- Peripheral arterial disease: This disease is characterized by reduced blood supply to the legs. It causes pain made worse by physical activity.
- Chronic exertional compartment syndrome: This rare syndrome is caused by high levels of exercise and usually stops with rest. It causes pressure in your muscles, which feels like shin splints.
How are shin splints treated?
Luckily, shin splints may go away on their own. You can help the healing process by resting from physical activity. You’ll need to avoid intense exercise for a few weeks while your shins heal. If you want, you can still engage in low-impact exercise such as swimming, yoga and/or using the elliptical machine. Just be cautious about how much you push your body, especially your legs. You should also do daily stretching exercises to relieve pain in your shins. Focus on flexibility exercises, especially in your lower legs. In addition to rest, you can also try these treatments:
- Ice: You can ice your shins for up to 20 minutes at a time. Never apply ice directly. Use a cloth to apply the ice.
- Custom-made insoles, inserts or shoes: You can get custom insoles, inserts or shoes that will pad your footsteps and make it more comfortable to move while you recover. These are helpful if you’re active during the day.
- Compression: Compression is also a great idea. You can use a compression stocking around your shin to keep the inflammation down. We’ll take a closer look at compression stockings below.
5 benefits of compression stockings
There are five main benefits of compression stockings. Compression stockings, also known as compression socks or sleeves, are a great way to prevent and treat shin splints. Let’s take a closer look at how.
- Maximize blood flow
The idea behind a compression stocking is that it stays tighter at the foot/ankle and looser as it moves up the calf. This helps promote blood flow to your shins, since this type of compression assists the body in moving blood back up to the heart. Enhanced blood flow is key for healing, as it supplies nutrients to the area and keeps your muscles fueled.
- Relieve pain
Compression stockings also help relieve pain. Since they compress the injury site, this helps keep down inflammation. With increased blood flow, these stockings also help remove lactic acid, which stimulates muscle soreness. In this way, compression stockings can give you muscular pain relief.
- Boost performance
Compression stockings are also known to boost performance and reduce fatigue. Thanks to increased blood flow, they help your movements more efficient, making you less tired.
- Prevent swelling and stiffness
By compressing the affected area, compression stockings also reduce the possibility of swelling and stiffness. This is great, especially if you recently experienced shin splints and want to prevent swelling. The removal of lactic acid also helps your muscles stay fluid and hydrated.
- Speed up recovery time and reduce injury risk
Generally speaking, compression stockings also speed up recovery time. Given all the previous benefits, they ensure that your injury is healing as quickly as possible. In particular, increased blood flow helps the area to get the fuel it needs to recover.
Athletic compression stockings come into two different styles: compression socks and compression sleeves. Compression sleeves are great if you want to wear your own socks during movement. Compression socks, which cover your entire foot up to your calf, are good if you have weak ankles as well as shin splints.
Other prevention tips
Of course, compression stockings aren’t the only way to prevent shin splints. If you’re looking for other ways to prevent shin splints in the future, you can also try to:
- Slowly build your fitness level: Don’t overdo it. If you do too much, too fast, your body will negatively react and be injury-prone. Build your fitness level over time.
- Cross train: It’s important to build diverse muscle groups so that no one area of your body is taking on undue stress. Use cross-training to make sure you’re building strength in a balanced way.
- Use good technique: Analyze the way you move and run. Sometimes your technique can cause certain areas of your leg to work too hard or remain tense. Ask an expert and use proper form whenever possible.
If you’re struggling with shin splint pain, you may consider talking to an expert chiropractor. A chiropractor can help relieve pain and make any adjustments to encourage healing. In addition, a professional chiropractic clinic may have recommendations for exercise and diet, as well as massage therapy, to get your shins healthy again in no time!
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. Dr. Wells desires to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.