What are Shin Splints?

Shin Splints is the common name for generalized lower leg muscle pain that occurs below the knee, usually along the bottom 1/3 of the tibia. They can be either on the inside or outside of the leg. Though they’re most often associated with running, the pain and annoyance of Shin Splints can affect basketball players, tennis players, dancers, even  soldiers. In fact, anyone who changes their routine too quickly, adds too much, or doesn’t warm up properly can develop them.

“Shin Splints aren’t just aggravating. If left untreated or ignored, they can keep you from enjoying any sort of workout. We have a through understanding of what causes them, but also of how to treat them.” - Craig O'Neil, Vice President of Learning and Affiliation

What causes Shin Splints

The muscles on the front portion of our lower legs tend to be weak. And repetitive stress from running constantly aggravates them. If you’ve begun increasing your mileage, gone from a flat route to a hilly one, aren’t stretching enough, or are wearing shoes that don’t provide enough support, you can end up in pain.

Weaker muscles on the front legs, combined with the chronically tight calves so many runners have, creates an imbalance. This imbalance causes extra strain where the anterior shin muscles attach to the shin bone. The strain on the muscles is too much and they become inflamed. That inflammation is what we call Shin Splints. 

How to avoid getting Shin Splints

  1. Keep your running shoes in good condition. Your foot mechanics may predispose you to Shin Splints, so be fitted by a professional and replace your shoes every 300 – 400 miles.
  2. Try not to run every day on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Running on the grass reduces the impact and force transferred through your legs. This is particularly important early in your training.
  3. If you notice pain in your shins while you run, massage the area with ice for five to 10 minutes after every run. This will help calm the inflammation.
  4. Stretch often and stretch properly, particularly your calf muscles. Maintaining flexibility and staying loose there will help you avoid Shin Splints. The runner’s calf stretch at the wall is a great one you can do anywhere, anytime.

Treat shin splints sooner, not later

If you continue running (or whatever activity is causing them), you’re just creating more strain on your tibia. That can lead to more serious conditions, like stress fractures. 

Shin Splints are not something you should ignore or one of those times when you “run through the pain.” In fact, experts suggest you stop running completely. Try a different workout like swimming or biking until the pain goes away. 

“I thought I’d have to give up running altogether, my shins hurt so much. My therapist at Results showed me how to heal them now and prevent them down the road.”

How Results Physiotherapy treats Shin Splints

One of the things Physical Therapists are trained to do, especially those like us who specialize in manual or “hands on” therapy, is recognize muscle weakness that can lead to pain. So if the pain isn’t going away, it’s a good idea to contact us.

We start by analyzing every aspect of your running gait, look for joint or soft tissue restrictions around your foot and ankle, and examine the biomechanics of your foot. This can tell us what predisposes you to Shin Splints. 

Then we work with you to create an individualized plan for treatment and recovery. Our goal is to get you back where you want to be – on the roads.

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