What Are Shin Splints?
Shin splints occur when the muscles, tendons and fascia of the lower leg are over worked. Shin splints often occur in athletes and runners who have changed and intensified their training regimes.
Shin splints are often felt as a deep, sharp pain along the shin bone (or tibia) and experienced early to midway through a training session.
Anterior Shin Splints
Symptoms of shin splints can range from aches through to sharp pains felt along the shinbone during exercise.
During the acute phase of shin splints, pain will start strong and slowly decrease as your body warms up; usually pain will return at the end of your training session.
Chronic shin splints can cause tiny cracks in your tibia which can result in a complete fracture or stress fracture of your tibia.
Posterior Shin Splints
Posterior shin splints can also be called medial tibial stress syndrome. Posterior shin splints can be felt as pain on the inside of the ankle and the lower part of the inner shin. Posterior shin splints is caused by a weakening of the tibialis posterior tendon.
Causes of Shin Splints
Anterior shin splints is an overuse injury and always involves the tibialis anterior muscle and to a lesser extent can also involve the extensor digitorum longus and extensor hallucis muscles as well.
Incorrect biomechanics, overstriding and overactive calf muscles can all lead to anterior shin splints.
The tibialis anterior muscle works hard to control and decelerate your foot during normal gait, it prevents your foot from slapping on the ground and also prevents undue stress on the lower leg.
If there are muscle imbalances, the tibialis anterior muscle is put under extra load and pulls away from the tibia and this causes shin splints.
Running on hard surfaces such as pavements, roads and even track running increases stress on the lower leg and causes the muscles to work harder to stabilise the leg and reduce impact.
High impact sports such as tennis, basketball and running contribute to shin splints.
Treatment For Shin Splints
Shin splints can be difficult to heal without proper treatments and rest.
During your rest period, for the first 48 hours most people benefit from ice packs applied to the area.
Ice is good for treating accute injuries as it helps to reduce inflammation.
Once completely rested, a combination of techniques are usually beneficial to reduce the pain of shin splints.
Stretching and Strengthening Exercises
Stretching of the calf helps with shin splints, particularly the lower calf.
Lower Calf Stretch
- Stand facing a wall so you are able to easily place both hand on the wall for support.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, moving the leg you wish to stretch back about 30cm.
- Slowly bend both your knees, keeping your back straight and both heels on the ground until you feel a stretch in your back lower calf.
- Hold for 30-45 seconds.
Strengthening for tibialis anterior is helpful also. You will need a theraband and a chair or table leg to attach your theraband.
Tibialis Anterior Strengthening Exercise
- Find an anchor point for your theraband (there will need to be enough space for you to sit with your legs extended) like a table leg.
- Loop one end of the theraband around your anchor point and sit down with your legs extended towards the anchor point. loop the other end of the theraband around the top of your foot so the theraband is taught.
- Bring your foot towards you keeping your leg straight so the theraband is tight.
- Repeat 15-20 times.
A correctly fitting, lace up jogger is necessary to part take in sports.
This should be purchased and fitted from a reputable sports store as there are many things to consider such as the amount of control required by your shoe, whether you are wearing orthotics during training and what you will be doing in your shoe.
For example is it purely for running or will you be playing a court sport.
Dry needling is helpful in relaxing tight muscles, and correcting muscle imbalances.
A fine needle is inserted into a trigger point (knot) within the muscle and this allows the muscle to relax, a gentle stretch is applied to the muscle and finally heat packs are applied to ensure the muscle is fully relaxed.
Orthotics are useful in correcting biomechanics. Both overpronation and under pronation effect the body’s ability to absorb shock.
Likewise an overactive muscle group will contribute to pronation and a correctly fitted orthotic encourages a weak muscle group to fire at the appropriate moment.
Shockwave therapy increases blood flow to the area of treatment and is an excellent modality for treating stress fractures associated with severe cases of shin splints.
The team at Erica Dash Podiatry are able to offer all the listed treatments, to free you of your symptoms of shin splints. Call us today or book online so you can return to your favourite fitness regime.
Shockwave is a great alternative to treatments such as dry needling if you’re needle phobic and not keen on dry needling. We also have effective treatment offers for kids.