When people talk about shin splints, they're usually referring to medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), or repetitive stress injuries to the medial ridge of the tibia bone. As an informal label, "shin splints" can describe any pain in an athlete's shins following exercise on hard surfaces. MTSS is one of the most common injuries experienced by runners. You can also develop shin splints from other forms of athletic exertion, including team sports, dance, and even walking.
MTSS often results from cumulative stress on the muscles, bones, and tendons, and it is likely to occur when people intensify their exercise routines without proper training. Some populations are more likely to develop shin splints than others. The incidence of MTSS is estimated to be as high as 35% in military personnel and athletes (Maarten et al. Abstract). In a study of naval recruits, 53% of female recruits developed shin splints during basic training (Yates and White Abstract).
If you know that you're going to be ramping up your exercise routine, you can take steps to avoid overuse injury. Compression socks are known to prevent venous disorders, reduce swelling, and promote healthy blood circulation. In addition to these benefits, they can also help to protect you from shin splints.
Here are a few of the ways compression socks can help you avoid MTSS:
1) They promote good form
Shin splints often result from repetitive stress, which causes small tears in the bone, connective tissue, and muscles of the leg. While it's possible to develop stress injuries even while maintaining a balanced gait, exercising with poor form increases your risk of injury. When a person exercises without proper alignment, they put additional strain on the musculoskeletal system with each step. Microtears can develop over the course of a single workout, causing significant discomfort. Common defects such as overpronation and forefoot varus have been linked to a greater incidence of shin pain (Bates 135). If you continue to exercise without correcting your form, the microtears in your tendons, muscles, and bones are likely to worsen.
Studies have shown that compression socks improve running economy (Engel Abstract), enhance kinematics for novice runners (Jefry et al. Abstract), and increase postural stability (Espeit Abstract). Taken together, this research suggests that compression socks may support proper form, especially for inexperienced athletes. As you develop a more efficient stride, along with better balance, you can engage with high-impact exercise more safely. By walking, running, and standing with optimal alignment, you reduce your likelihood of developing stress and overuse injuries in the first place.
2) They encourage faster recovery
It's normal to feel soreness at the end of a difficult workout. As you reach peak exertion, your body struggles to deliver fresh oxygen to your muscles. The body compensates by switching to anaerobic energy production, which leads to increased acidity in the muscle cells. This is commonly known as lactic acid buildup, and it can be painful. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes post-workout pain that is linked to inflammation response. DOMS may cause you to feel tender in the hours and days after a workout, or you may have trouble moving your muscles with a full range of motion. Both phenomena, lactic acid buildup and DOMS, involve elevated levels of metabolic waste. Compression socks help you to eliminate waste materials through your cardiovascular system, allowing you to recover faster.
In a review of the scientific literature, researchers Engel, Holmberg, and Sperlich determined that compression gear had a large positive effect on the reduction of post-exercise soreness and the delay in onset of muscle fatigue. They noted that runners who wear compression garments should benefit from reduced muscle pain, damage, and inflammation.
Normally, when a microtear in the bone, muscle, or tendon becomes inflamed, it can make physical activity risky. By aggravating an existing injury, you could cause additional tissue death and prompt further inflammation. Since compression reduces your recovery time and inflammation response, compression socks help you begin each workout with a clean slate. When you wear compression socks to promote faster recovery, you may be able to avoid cumulative damage.
3) They improve cardiovascular health, which is crucial to healing
Once you develop microtears in the structures of the lower leg, including the shin bones, calf muscles, and tibial tendons, a doctor may advise that you rest your legs in order to prevent the shin splint pain from worsening. For anyone hoping to train every day—whether you're running a marathon or preparing for military service—this can present a serious setback.
Luckily, compression socks hasten the healing process. The best compression socks apply graduated pressure to promote healthy blood flow in the lower legs. By compressing the feet and ankles with stronger pressure, graduated compression socks prevent blood from pooling in these areas. Deoxygenated blood is pushed out of the lower extremities and towards the heart for processing. This mechanism provides pain relief by eliminating waste materials faster, and it also allows freshly oxygenated blood to reach your cells more quickly. Altogether, better circulation enables optimal conditions for healing.
Experimental results support the use of compression to promote healing. Some forms of compression therapy have been shown to expedite bone regeneration (Mavčič and Antolič Abstract). Plus, graduated compression stockings and socks significantly improve healing time for certain wounds (Lim E394). For anyone looking to heal microtears in the tibia and surrounding muscles, compression therapy may offer a tool to speed up the healing process. While your body mends itself, the use of compression also reduces the painful symptoms of shin splints.
Shin Splint Compression
When you wear compression gear, you may notice that your lower legs warm up slightly. It's normal to feel a tingling sensation as you experience increased blood flow to your extremities. Some people even observe an immediate reduction in swelling and inflammation. Although compression socks function as a medical garment, they look like normal socks. You can wear them with running shoes or underneath other specialty athletic gear. No one has to know that your shins are getting secret support—but you’ll feel the difference with every step.
The benefits of compression are numerous and, in addition to shin splints, they may alleviate or prevent other kinds of overuse injuries. For example, wearing compression socks may help you sidestep the symptoms caused by plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, chronic exertional compartment system, and other conditions related to repetitive impact and inflammation. By maintaining a balanced gait, you keep your activities as low-impact as possible. At the same time, compression sleeves and socks bring about faster recovery, less inflammation, and more efficient healing.
Donna S. said it best in her recent review of our knee-length socks:
“LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! . . . These socks have reduced the swelling and inflammation so I have no pain most days . . . You can just feel the durability and quality when you touch them and put them on. I’ll be a lifetime customer.”
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