Have you ever jumped down from your cab and felt a sudden pain along your shinbone? Repeatedly landing on hard pavement may lead to shin splints.
The pain of this “over-use injury” to the leg is caused by overloading the shinbone and the connective tissues attaching the muscles to that bone.
Shin splints commonly happen to runners or other athletes who play sports involving quick direction changes while running on hard surfaces, such as basketball, tennis and floor hockey.
They often happen to people with weak or unstable ankles, too.
Shin splints can also happen to truck drivers.
Since leg muscles tighten up for drivers who sit in their seats for a long time during a long haul, when they jump down out of the cab, these muscles may not be flexible enough to absorb the shock of hitting the ground, leading to shin splints.
Other causes may be aggressive walking over long periods of time with shoes that don’t have enough support.
Flat arches can also be another cause; so can walking and running over long distances on surfaces you may not be used to.
Basically, a sudden and significant increase in your usual leg activities can cause shin splints.
The most common symptoms are tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner part of your lower leg accompanied by mild swelling. This painful area is usually about four to six inches long.
If you have shin splints because of exercising, you’ll usually feel the pain just after you start working out. Then, it often lessens for a while, only to return at the end of the workout.
The pain often starts off feeling dull and then, if you continue to exercise, it can become so severe that you may be unable to keep going.
At first, the pain may stop when you stop running or exercising. However, without treatment the pain may eventually become constant.
Often, you can treat shin splints yourself. Rest is the best treatment, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around doing nothing. You can do any activity that isn’t painful.
So, high-impact activities, like running, tennis or soccer should be avoided initially. Instead, try lower-impact ones like swimming or cycling.
At work, protect your legs. First, be sure you have properly fitted boots with appropriate arch support. (Consider getting orthotic inserts or additional arch supports).
Next, when you get out of your truck, step down instead of jumping down.
If you must walk over long distances, choose to walk on soft surfaces like dirt or grass instead of concrete or pavement. Stay on level ground and avoid hills. Slow down.
Take it easy until your shins have healed. Wrap your leg in a tensor bandage for support if your legs are bothering you.
If you’ve been sitting in your cab for a while, stretch your legs (especially your calves) before you get out. This will get your blood flowing to these muscles, giving them more strength and flexibility when you step down.
Then, when you’re done for the day, put your feet up.
If you put you lower leg at the same level as your heart or higher, your legs won’t swell as much. Use ice or a cold pack while your legs are up to also keep the swelling down.
Consider using some over-the-counter medicines to reduce pain and/or swelling (ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen).
Try treating your shin splints at home. However, go to your doctor if the pain doesn’t go away with rest; or if you have sudden sharp pain after a fall or accident; or, if the swelling gets worse instead of better; or, if you’re just not sure that you have shin splints. (Sometimes small fractures can be mistaken as shin splints).
In the future, to avoid getting shin splints, exercise and strengthen your shins.
Try doing toe raises. Stand up. Slowly rise up on your toes; then, slowly lower your heels to the floor. Do this 10 times.
When this becomes easy, do the same exercise holding weights. Add more weight as you are able. Leg presses and other exercises for your lower legs can be helpful too.
Later, when you try a new activity that may put extra stress on your lower legs, start out slowly. For instance, if you are just beginning to run, slowly increase the distance and pace of your run over several weeks. Wear shoes that fit your foot properly and are not worn out.
If you have flat feet, try a shoe insert to give your foot more support and to cushion the impact of exercising on hard surfaces.
If you already are a runner, try cross-training with a low-impact sport, like swimming or cycling.
By exercising these options, you’ll put your best foot forward every time you step out of your cab. •
-Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
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