Expert Advice

How can I treat shin splints?

Prevent and relieve pain in the tissues of the lower legs with these holistic remedies.

How can I treat shin splints?
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Sports Medicine Doctor
To prevent shin splints, alternate high-impact activities like running and dancing with lower-impact exercises such as cycling and swimming. Stretch before any workout (this heats up your body's tissues, which prepares them for impact) and then warm up-five minutes of slow jogging, for example. Always wear quality shoes with an air or gel sole for cushioning. If you're suffering from shin splints, rest for six weeks (you can switch to a low-impact exercise as long as it doesn't cause pain). To relieve swelling, ice the affected areas for 20 minutes, one or two times a day, and take 600 to 800 milligrams of ibuprofen daily. The supplements glucosamine (2,000 mg a day) and chondroitin sulfate (1,600 mg a day) can also speed healing by helping to repair your connective tissues. Take them for four to six weeks. If you have nagging pain after six weeks, see a primary-care or sports-medicine doctor who can evaluate your feet and skeletal alignment and check for more serious problems.
-C. T. Moorman III, M.D., director of sports medicine at Duke University Medical Center

Massage Therapist
To help protect yourself from shin splints, do a gentle gliding massage stroke called effleurage on your lower legs for five minutes before every workout. Effleurage warms up the muscles and helps remove fluid buildup caused by inflammation. (A massage therapist can show you how to do it.) If you already have shin splints, massage will encourage healing by increasing blood flow to your aggravated tissues. Ice the front of your leg for up to 15 minutes beforehand to reduce swelling and to minimize any discomfort the massage may cause. Look for a massage therapist who specializes in sports massage or works with athletes; the best way to find a good one is to ask around and get recommendations.
-Whitney Lowe, LMT, NCTMB, founder and director of the Orthopedic Massage Education and Research Institute

TCM Practitioner
A practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine will first ask you to discuss your health history in order to identify the root cause of the problem. For example, your liver may not be delivering enough blood to the muscles, which can make tendons less flexible-and lead to shin splints. Then the practitioner will target the tender spots on your leg and place acupuncture needles where there's a deficiency of qi (this improves circulation). To unblock energy pathways, needles are also applied to the points where the meridians of wood (which governs tendons), earth (which handles soft tissues), and water (which deals with bone) intersect.
-Bryn Clark, Dipl.O.M., chair of the NCCAOM Board of Commissioners