Jump roping, box jumps, burpees, sprints… they can all lead to shin splints, a painful and incredibly annoying injury experienced by almost every single active person ever.
And while it’s often hard to pinpoint the direct cause, shin splints can be the result of a number of factors, including muscular imbalance, inflexibility, muscular overload and even biomechanical irregularities. And they’re one of those injuries that once you get them, they never seem to fully go away.
When I first started working out again after high school sports, I was constantly plagued by shin splints. They were frustrating, annoying, and painful, and prevented me from working out countless times.
And when I started getting into jump roping and HIIT workouts a few years later, they got even worse. My shins and calves hurt so badly it was often hard to walk. I remember several times when I took weeks at a time off of any jumping or running at all—and they still wouldn’t get any better.
And despite how common they are, shin splints tend to be one of those injuries that no one quite knows how to get rid of. Even the personal trainers I used to ask (before I became certified myself) would throw their hands up in the air and recommend little more than rest when I’d complain about shin splints.
But here’s the thing: you don’t have to live with shin splints for your entire life. Because you can get rid of shin splints—and I’m going to tell you how.
It took me years to figure out the best methods for healing this pesky injury, but I’m now happy to say that I never, ever get shin splints anymore. Here are my favorite ways to prevent and treat shin splints:
Foam rolling is one of the most basic, yet most effective ways of preventing and healing shin splints (and other muscular injuries). You can pick up a foam roller for $10 or $15 at any sporting goods store or online, and trust me, it’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Foam rolling not only increases blood flow, shrinks pain and soreness, it’s like giving yourself a mini maintenance massage—without the hefty price tag.
You should aim to foam roll at least a couple of times a week in order to keep your shin splints at bay. If you don’t know how to get started, read this.
Lacrosse balls (or Yoga Tune Up balls)
Once you decide that foam rolling isn’t quite enough (and if you’re not there yet, you’ll get there, trust me), the next step is to use a lacrosse ball or Yoga Tune Up balls to really get those knots out.
Because while foam rolling is a good overall injury prevention tool, in order to get really deep into the muscle tissue, you’ll need something a little more targeted.
Warning: using a ball to get rid of shin splints will hurt. But the temporary pain is worth it for the long-term shin splints relief.
I just discovered The Stick a couple of weeks ago—but I immediately fell in love.
It’s great for massaging your entire leg (I’ve even used it on my arms and shoulders), but is especially effective for shin splints. It’s really easy to use, and allows you to control the pressure so you get either a light or medium massage. And if you want it to go deeper, all you have to do is push down harder.
Arnica is a homeopathic medicine that comes in cream form and can be used to rub onto sore muscles to relieve muscle aches and stiffness and reduce swelling. It helps with those painful knots you probably have from jumping a lot, and is also really good to use if you are a klutz like me and have a habit of running into the edges of tables a lot.
If you want a cooling effect as well as a healing one, try Biofreeze. This minty smelling cream has a similar effect to icing, and helps with increased blood flow and muscle ache relief. The menthol in it has a really nice cooling effect which can feel awesome on just massaged muscles.
I’ll admit that I’ve yet to actually try compression socks, mainly because I get so insanely hot when I work out that the idea of wearing another piece of clothing isn’t exactly appealing to me. But I’ve heard so much about them and all they can do for you, they’re high up on my birthday list this year.
Not only are compression socks supposed to reduce fatigue and increase strength during workouts, they also reduce cramping, speed up recovery, and help to prevent and relieve shin splints. Athletes of all sorts—runners, CrossFitters, HIITers—swear by them.
I know, I know: stretching is boring.
Seriously, I can’t even get through an hour of yoga without wanting to fall asleep. But if you want to stay flexible and control your shin splints, you’ve got to do it regularly (i.e. not once every two weeks).
Try and get in the habit of stretching by doing a little after every workout, or while you’re watching TV at night (this helps tremendously with the boredom).
Here are 10 stretches you should be doing on a regular basis as an athlete.
What are your favorite ways to prevent or relieve shin splints? Let me know in the comments!