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Q&A

How to treat shin splints while backpacking

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It's been a couple of years since I last had bad shin splits but I can still recall how painful they can be. I was able to heal them before mostly with a couple weeks rest.

If the pain came back when backpacking, a day or so away from transportation, what methods can be used to at least control the pain enough to get back to civilization without having to leave all my gear on the trail?

I prefer answers that do not include an additional person to carry weight since I often backpack alone. I also don't need answers on how to treat it once I am home.

Is there anything better than a couple of ice packs and aspirin? Obviously I would prefer the lightest solution to reduce pack weight and the chance of the shin splints in the first place.

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This post was sourced from https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/1156. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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2 answers

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I have suffered pretty badly from these on a couple long hikes. Here's my best suggestions from my experience:

  • If at all possible stop hiking for a week (I know the scenario you set up precludes this ).

Assuming for the rest of these you have to keep going:

  1. Whenever you stop, lie down with your feet up. If a cold stream is nearby, sticking your legs in it would be preferable.
  2. Take NSAIDs (Ibuprofen would be the my preference). My personal, probably body-destroying dosage is to take a lot. I'm ~200lbs, so if it gets bad I'm taking 4x200mg tabs at a time, every 4 hours. I've gotten by on 2x200mg but it was painful.
  3. Wear compression on your shins. The best thing I've gotten was a neoprene calf sleeve, but I've also done it successfully with just a normal ACE bandage. Anything that provides compression on your shin really, I once doubled up a stretchy ankle brace and used that.
  4. If you are far enough out that you have to camp with shinsplints, sleep with your feet and knees raised (put a log under your tent, or use your backpack under your knees).

With just the Ibuprofen and compression, I was able to hike 10-12 hours a day, 30+km for 5 days, and only truly suffered for the first 2 days, it started healing almost immediately once compression was added. Just taking the Ibuprofen, I have not successfully shaken the shin splints off.

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This post was sourced from https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/a/1157. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Compression sleeves work really well. In addition I would add stretches for your calves and arches. Carry lacrosse ball to roll out under your foot and lower leg muscles, especially if you get shin splints often.

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This post was sourced from https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/a/17120. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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