Shin Splint aka Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
What are shin splints?
Shin Splints usually present by pain in the mid- outer region of the shin bone and sometimes in the front-inner region. The two muscles involved are the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior as shown below.
The condition is most commonly the result of a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a sport or exercise, such as increasing from a 5km run to to 10km run in the span of a few days. You would normally feel the dull pain or discomfort during early phases of exercise, which then reduces and returns towards the end of the exercise. If not rested and left untreated, the pain can get worse with increasing impact exercises and can cause a person to stop his exercise routine entirely. It is best to watch for the warning signs and catch it sooner rather than later.
How do they occur?
The sudden increase in impact on the lower leg from increased training causes stress and eventually inflammation where the lower leg muscles attach onto the bone. These muscles are responsible to lift the foot upwards and inwards and work to decelerate the foot. Pain can be worsened by excessive pronation (or inward rolling) of the foot during running. Other factors that may contribute to the condition include poor foot posture (both flat feet or high arched feet) tight calf muscles or weak ankle and lower leg muscles.
I have pain already how do I get it treated?
Physiotherapy is very effective in treating shin splints and aims to fix the source of the problem- which could be something as simple as footwear. This means a very thorough assessment is done of your running technique, foot biomechanics, strength and flexibility. There will be a period of relative rest where you will need to ice the area and rest from aggravating activities, while doing gentle exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist.
Treatment techniques to relieve pain and fix the source of the problem include releasing of tight muscles and strengthening of weak muscles, ultrasound and at time anti-inflammatories. Techniques such as Kinesiology taping onto the lower legs and feet can help manage the pain and correct biomechanical faults. Often mobilisation of the ankle and foot joints to improve movement is used too. Your physiotherapist may suggest changing shoes, investing in customised insoles and barefoot training.
From the very beginning, a progressive rehabilitation programme is incorporated into your recovery, consisting of low impact exercise to maintain endurance. If you run, ensure that you choose a soft terrain to avoiding pounding on concrete. In the recovery process, start off with low speed and intensity running. Also ensure a thorough warm up and stretching programme before activity and cool down post activity, followed by icing in the area. Allow rest one day in between training days.
To find out if you have a biomechanical impairment which can cause shin splints or to get a full assessment to determine what is causing your pain, come down and consult with one of our physiotherapists at Physio Savvy.
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