I have had many people ask me about what to do for “shin splints.” In each case, they have resumed a regular exercise routine involving running. My advice for them and for anyone else who might want to know about this annoying and very limiting problem follows.
Shin splints are a type of overuse injury that results in pain along the front of the leg. Shin splints are common among runners, but can occur with any activity that involves repetitive impact on the feet. Medically, shin splints are known as medial tibial stress syndrome and are a result of some combination of overuse or incorrect use of the lower legs, improper stretching, warm-up, or exercise technique, overtraining and running or jumping on hard surfaces, and/or running in shoes that do not provide adequate support.
Shin splints are caused by inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the leg bone, or tibia. This inflammation is a result of the repetitive pulling of the muscles that attach to the bone. Over time, the repetitive stress on these muscle attachments can develop into micro-fractures in the bone, termed stress fractures.
Rest from the initiating activity is the first line of treatment for shin splints. After an adequate amount of rest, gentle stretching and strengthening of the anterior leg muscles can help prevent shin splints from returning. It is also important to be running in comfortable sneakers that properly support and fit your specific foot type (see my article on shoe wear for more in depth information). One of the runners I spoke with was relieved well enough to be able to train and participate in the Broad Street run after just changing his running shoes.
Being evaluated by a physical therapist will help you to identify the underlying root of the problem and be guided in an individualized treatment plan. Other options the therapist might suggest include the use of ice or other modalities to control the inflammation and to numb the pain. There are braces and taping techniques that might also offer relief by decreasing the pull of the muscles on the bone. If all else fails, my best (but most disliked) advice is to stop the activity altogether- at least for a while. Common sense tells you that if a certain activity hurts, don’t do it! There are many other forms of rigorous exercise to replace running that will not result in shin splints.
Conshohocken Physical Therapy is not an ordinary Physical Therapy clinic. We believe in changing your life. We are driven by the desire to make a positive impact, both personally and therapeutically, on every person who enters our office.
You will experience pain relief, improved motion and a greater quality of life. Our approach is friendly, evidence-based and innovative and our Doctors of Physical Therapy have the most specialized training in treating your body.
Learn more about Conshohocken Physical Therapy by visiting us online at www.conshypt.com.