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Easy Foam Rolling Exercises for Shin Splints

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT November 22, 2019 0 Comments

If you are trying to fast track your recovery, foam rolling for shin splints is a great option. This cheap, simple, and efficient tool can give you the upper hand in the healing process.

How Does Foam Rolling Help Shin Splints?

The benefits of foam rolling are straightforward. Applying pressure, via rolling, to the shins promotes blood flow. Increased circulation helps to decrease shin splint pain, promote relaxation of tight sore muscles, and maximize the healing process.

Foam Roller Exercises for Shin Splints

There are two main muscle groups in the lower leg that can be targeted with the foam roller for treating shin splints: the gastrocnemius (or calf) and anterior tibialis. It is particularly effective when used in conjunction with other shin splint massage techniques.

Gastrocnemius Massage

Start by sitting on the floor with the foam roller in front of you. Bend one knee and put the foot flat on the floor, place the calf of the other leg on top of the roller (starting near the ankle). Lift your butt off the ground with your hands as you slowly roll up and down the calf muscle. You can rotate your leg to focus on different areas on the inside and outside of the calf. Rotating the hip outward as far as you can get also targets the muscles on the outside of the lower leg (also known as the evertors). To add additional pressure and body weight, you can cross your legs instead. Roll for 1-2 minutes on each leg.

Anterior Tibialis Massage

Start by kneeling on the floor with the foam roller in front of you. Bend your ankles so that you’re balancing on the balls of your feet and the knees. Your heels will be touching your butt (or as close to it as they can get). With this position, you should notice a gentle foot and calf stretch. Then, place the foam roller under your shins (as close to the knees as possible without actually being on the joints). Lean forward and put your hands on the floor. Then, lean into your hands as you roll forward on the roller, moving up and down across the entire shin. Point your toes as you reach the lowest point of your shins. Return to the starting position and do it again. Roll back and forth for 1-2 minutes.

When and How Long Should You Foam Roll?

You can foam roll several times per week, even daily if time allows and you tolerate it well. Try to coordinate it with your running days ( or other effective shin splint exercises ) to maximize your recovery. If you are only using the foam roller for your shins, it should only take you 5-10 minutes maximum. If you incorporate other areas of the body into your foam rolling routine, such as the upper back, quads, hamstrings, and glutes, you can spend up to 20 minutes per day.

Foam Rolling for Lower Back Pain

How Foaming Can Improve Upper Back Pain

Tips for Maximizing Foam Rolling

  • Move slowly and controlled to promote optimal relaxation and blood flow.
  • Stay relaxed by focusing on deep breathing. Moving in sequence with the breath can help too.
  • Listen to your body. Don’t force any pressure that causes severe pain or muscle guarding. Consider lightening the pressure, modifying the position, using a softer foam roller, or even completely ditching the option completely if necessary.
  • If you notice a particularly sore area (probably a muscle knot or triggerpoint), stop and hold pressure on that spot for up to 1 minute to promote relaxation.

Can Foam Rolling Make Shin Splints Worse?

Like any treatment option, it needs to be done correctly to yield benefits. If done incorrectly, there is always a risk of further injury. For shin splints, prevent further injury by paying attention to your symptoms and stopping if something doesn’t feel right. Don’t apply direct pressure on the shin bone, ankle, and knees to prevent flaring up the surrounding areas. Ultimately, common sense will keep you on track.

For best results, try foam rolling as part of a comprehensive recovery plan plan.

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Safe Shin Splint Recovery With Foam Rollers

Foam rolling should be comfortable. If you have severe shin pain or cannot properly relax, it may not be a good option for you. Make sure to always keep the foam roller on muscles and away from bones and joints. Contraindications for foam rolling include severe pain, stress fracture, osteoporosis, arterial disease or other circulation issues, and cancer. If at any time you are unsure, make sure to seek medical advice from a trusted healthcare professional, such as an orthopedist or a physical therapist.

Foam rollers are great for their versatility in addressing muscle soreness and stiffness. Ultimately, it provides a deep tissue massage in the comfort of your own home.

SHOP SHIN SPLINT PRODUCTS
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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