Shin splints are a constant and recurring, very painful condition present in the front of the lower legs (shins). When Shin splints are highly inflamed and acute they are very painful and debilitating. We’ve put this blog together to help bring awareness to what exactly Shin splints are, what causes them, what you can do yourself at home and how our Sports Chiropractors can help if you need further assistance.
What are Shin Splints?
Shin Splints are an inflammation of the muscles located in the front of the lower legs. It is a catch all term used to describe several conditions such as anterior shin splints, posterior shin splints and medial tibial stress syndrome. Generally speaking the term describes pain that is experienced along the shin bone (your tibia) from your knee down to your ankle.
The exact mechanics of the pain experienced isn’t completely known. It is believed that the compact nature of the muscles and tendons running along the shin become inflamed and can pull on the bone, an alternate theory is the stress impact on the tibia itself.
This condition commonly presents itself in the early stages of commencing strenuous activity, and with stop start sports such as tennis, soccer & netball. It even presents in runners who are increasing their load capacity and have perhaps done so too quickly.
When left untreated, shin splints can very quickly become a severe running-related injury that will eventually hinder your workout. Incorrect footwear and improper technique are also contributing factors. The dreaded shin splint can cripple your workout and keep you from training.
Shin Splint symptoms
Most common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain to the shin bone itself or the muscles on the side/behind it, exacerbated with exercise
- Soreness to the touch over the shin and corresponding muscles.
- Localised redness and inflammation, with heat often present over the affected area
- Shins may appear swollen and unusually taut to the touch.
- The pain can be felt before, during or after running activities and it can be so bad that it may force you to stop altogether
What Causes Shin Splints?
The primary cause of shin splints is excessive forces & pressure on the shin bone & the connective tissues that attach the surrounding muscles to this bone. This force is generally a result of:
- Sudden increase in training frequency and intensity. In that early stage where the next level of fitness is being pushed and developed.
- Overuse – excessive amounts of training, and training consistently in the same manner
- Not enough recovery time between training/exercise thus contributing further to overuse
- Flat feet or high arches – the Tibialis Anterior muscle – the one most commonly affected by shin splint pain has a lot to do with the structures of your arch. A corresponding factor will be an ill supported arch.
- Shoes – wearing ill fitting, ill supporting or worn out old shoes.
- Running on slanted surfaces/uneven terrain.
- Participating in sports which include sudden stops & bursts of speed
- Technique – poor form when running does not distribute the forces of impact into tolerable means.
Treating Shin Splints yourself
When suffering from shin pain, it’s important not to “push through it”. If the pain is present, it means the bone or surrounding tissue is injured. Continuing with your activity, will only be aggravating the issue and the pain will intensify and last longer.
- Rest is the most effective treatment for shin splints.
- In most cases, the recommendation is a minimum of 2 weeks of rest, but this period can vary depending on severity.
- If you wish to keep exercising, modify your regime to include gentle activities including walking (provided this does not aggravate you), swimming, cycling or weight training.
- Apply an ice pack to the affected shin for 10 – 20 minutes a few times per day to help with the calming process.
- Over the counter anti inflammatory medication may be helpful, but it’s important that you check with your doctor before you take any medication.
Preventing Re occurrence
Once you have been given the all clear to get back into training, even if it’s modified to start, be sure to follow the advice of your practitioner. Here are some simple tips to help you on your way back into training without re injury:
- Thorough warm up, including active dynamic warm up drills.
- Proper cool down drills including static stretching and foam rolling.
- Progress your training regime steadily and ensure your program is balanced.
- Consider adding in other exercises, not just running so you are not overusing and fatiguing the same structures.
- Ensure you get properly fitted with shoes that support you and enhance a good running style.
How we can help
Sometimes a good pair of hands and some solid support and guidance is just what you need to get through an injury and to the other side with relative ease. Our Sports Chiropractors are well adept at looking after all manner of sporting injury and Shin Splints is one of them. We can get you back on your feet with:
- Guidance on exercise modification. If you can afford to take the time to rest that is great, but when goals need to be met and events are booked in sometimes a complete break is not an option. Finding alternative ways to keep your fitness up with out aggravating your injury is priority.
- With a tailored treatment plan designed to speed up the recovery process of your injury. This will include:
- Utilising soft tissue techniques such as Myofascial Dry Needling and Active Release to release the tension
- Chiropractic adjustments to the feet, ankle and tibia/fibula joints to ensure that any adhesion’s that might be contributing to your injury are released
- Mobilisations to your feet, ankle and tibia/fibula joints to ensure that the movement in these joints isn’t restricted.
- Strapping to help support and mobilise as required.