November 15, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Got (what I think are) shin splints. Now what?

Yesterday, after making it back to the gym for the first time since before Sandy, I got some pain in my left leg as I was running on the treadmill and had to stop.

This isn't a question about how to keep it from happening again--I've read a number of other questions and know that, e.g., my form is terrible and I need to get form and shoes evaluated before returning to running. (I'm relatively early in C25K).

My question is what can I do while I'm waiting for this to heal? Am I just on the sidelines for a few weeks? Can I do some cycling? I want to do something cardio-related--I quit smoking two weeks ago and seeing the improvement in my ability to run/bike/whatever is a major part of my plan to stay quit this time.

Swimming--given that I live in NYC--is not an option; is there any other low-impact exercise that I can do?
posted by thecaddy to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cycling and swimming are both fine and should not exacerbate shin splints. If it doesn't get better, do go to the doctor rather than continuing to run on it - I got a stress fracture in my leg from running on a treadmill.
posted by something something at 8:29 AM on November 15, 2012

My walking footfall is so different from my running footfall that even when I've had shin splints, I could still walk pain-free. ymmv. Otherwise, I let my legs heal and work my abs/upper body pretty hard with weights, etc.
posted by thewestinggame at 8:34 AM on November 15, 2012

I used to get shin splints from running, but not from walking. So that might be something to try, although I'd probably wait a few days at least.

Non-weight-bearing exercise will not give you shin splints, and won't make existing shin splints worse, so I would definitely switch over to cycling for a while, and then when your legs are better, move into walking, and then maybe speed up the walking, and then mix in a little running, until you can run without pain.

And you can get your heart rate up by doing some weight training. Obviously the cardio benefit isn't as pronounced as if you were running regularly, but it won't hurt, and will help once you can get back to your regular running program.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try rowing
posted by rsk at 9:40 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I get them A LOT... I ice them at night, if you freeze a dixie cup of water then tear half the cup off so you can hold it and put it directly onto your leg (little uncomfortable at first)- or just a bag of frozen vegetables. I would also wrap my shins really tight with that trainers tap with about 5 inch sections start at your ankle wrap each peice like V up your leg until you get towards your knee.

Goodluck, they are the WORST!
posted by love2much at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2012

You might find that just wearing different shoes makes a big difference. Shin splits can be caused by non-obvious things. For example, I used to get them just by wearing shin guards playing soccer, and when I took off the shin guards, I no longer got shin splits.
posted by Dansaman at 12:30 PM on November 15, 2012

Just a thought: I used to get horrible shin splints when I ran in actual "running shoes". Switched to barefoot running shoes (Vibram Five Fingers). No more shin splints!
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:13 PM on November 15, 2012

Swimming is probably the lowest impact you'd get - with that out, YMMV with the cycling: when I had bad shin splints, cycling on a stationary bike in a certain way made things worse, so if you do go for cycling make sure the bike's fitted to you properly.

If it's the cycling through your stride impact that's exacerbating your pain and jumping up and down doesn't hurt, you could try jump rope on a soft mat, sand or grass. Or burpees. If the burpees hurt, you could give squat thrusts a try - do them as fast as possible. Again, YMMV.

I know you didn't ask for prevention advice, but this was really helpful for me when my legs were bummed out - stretching all over the place, all over the time. Calf, quadriceps, hamstring, hips - everything was so tight on one side all my muscles were thrown out of whack, and I'm sure that contributed in some way to the ow.
posted by zennish at 7:31 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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