Your legs are important. It’s safe to say they’ve most likely gotten you to where you are today. (Yes, that was an attempt at a leg joke.) Movement is inevitable; and in a society that stresses the importance of exercise, stretching and conditioning are vital in ensuring your legs stay healthy. Below are four common problems that arise when we are asking a lot of our legs, but not giving them the proper stretching and strengthening they need.
1. Shin splints
Shin splints develop when connective tissues and muscles along the edge of the shin bone become inflamed. Running or performing other high-impact activities on harder surfaces tend to cause this lower leg problem. As in running, the constant repetition of your legs pounding the pavement can be too much for the muscles and tendons. Also, the shape of your foot and the way you run may influence your susceptibility to getting shin splints. If you’re running or exercising on a regular basis, have an expert examine your feet and motion and recommend some ways to minimize the aggravation on your muscles. Rest your muscles and apply ice. Take an anti-inflammatory as well. As the pain begins to ease, stretch your lower leg and work on strengthening those muscles.
2. Inflamed or torn tendons or muscles.
Pain in the lower calf or back of the heel could be the first sign of tendonitis. Apply ice, take anti-inflammatories, and rest your leg. Supportive shoes or inserts that lessen tension and impact may also help. Once the pain subsides, stretch and strengthen your leg. However, If pain is severe, your Achilles tendon may be ruptured, so contact your doctor at American Foot and Leg immediately. The best thing to do is make sure you stretch before and after any intense activity.
3. Muscle cramps.
If you’ve ever experienced a muscle cramp, you know how intense the pain can be. Muscle cramps tend to strike suddenly, tightening your lower leg muscles and causing sharp pain. Muscles cramp from fatigue, heat or dehydration. In most cases, you can ease muscle cramps by stopping whatever may have caused the onset of the cramp. Gently stretch or massage your lower leg muscle. You can apply cold to an inflamed muscle, and heat to a tight muscle. Make sure you stretch properly and train correctly so that you lower your risk of getting cramps.
4. Sprained knee or ankle.
A sprain happens when you overstretch a ligament. If the sprain is mild, try to rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). If the sprain is more severe, apply ice and see the doctor immediately.
If all you’ve been able to fit in are 20-minutes walks a day, it’s not advisable to attempt an eight-mile run tomorrow. Your muscles need time to grow stronger. No matter what your level of activity is currently, remember to stretch your muscles, stay properly hydrated, and gradually increase the intensity of your exercising.