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What can I do about my shin pain?- Shin splints

It’s running season and you want to get off to a great start and hit the road full of energy and motivation. But there is a pain running down the inside of your lower leg every time you start. Sometimes the pain starts when running and thereafter it can last for days. This makes it difficult to keep training. The good news is its treatable! So, what exactly is a shin splint?



What exactly is a shin splint?


Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) or more commonly known as “shin splints” describes pain that is felt below the knee, either on the front, outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or behind the inside part of the shin bone (posterior shin splints). It’s a common injury among active people, and it’s often called shin splints because the pain is located on the inside of the shin bone. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is a cumulative stress disorder that occurs due to repeated overloading and stress to the bones, muscles, and joints of the lower legs.


What are the symptoms?

  • A dull ache in the front part of the lower leg or pain along the inner part of the lower leg

  • Pain during exercise/ the start of exercise/ after exercise

  • Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg

  • Occasionally mild swelling in the lower leg (usually not present)

  • Numbness and weakness in the feet

Its important to note not all these symptoms will be present.



Where does the pain come from?


Your leg hurts where your calf muscle connects to your shin bone. These muscles are responsible for maintaining tension in the arch of the foot. If they become irritated and overworked, the muscle cells can harden which causes radiating pain in the your lower leg. This is why its difficult to pinpoint the source of the pain.


What causes shin splints?


  • An anatomical abnormality (such as flat foot syndrome also known as pes planus)

  • Muscle weakness in the gluteal region or thigh

  • Overuse or increased training frequency and intensity

  • Lack of flexibility

  • Poor/improper training techniques

Excessive force on the shins could result from:


· Running on a decline

· Running on a slanted or uneven surface

· Inappropriate running shoes

· Sports that require sudden stops and fast starts


Diagnosis


It is important you have a thorough assessment with a Physiotherapist to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment. There are different stages of an overuse injury. Treatment is driven by what stage you are in.


Stages of an overuse injury



Treatment


It is important that you seek a correct diagnosis from a Health practitioner before starting any self-treatments. Physiotherapy will allow your body to heal optimally. It is important not to rush treatment so allow the Physio to guide you so your rehab is quick, efficient and appropriate. The whole aim is to get you back to where you want to be without the risk of the injury reoccurring. A physio is able to guide you to do exactly this.


Physiotherapy treatment may include:

  • Icing

  • Advice/education on when to slow down and when and how you can increase your load safely

  • Dry needling (please see my dry needing blog to learn more about this)

  • Strapping

  • Myofascial release

  • Joint mobilization

  • Exercise prescription - such as strengthening or stretchin

  • Body mechanics correction

  • Core stability conditioning

  • Balance training

My life saving tips:


Firstly, the most important tip is to seek a diagnosis from a health professional. The correct diagnosis is imperative in guiding the treatment. We not only want to take away the symptom but also the root cause of the problem.

  1. Give yourself a break- Its okay to slow down and take some time to focus on your technique. Maybe decrease the duration and intensity of your run/sport. During this time it would be good to focus on your technique. There is no point in pushing through and then the injury becomes chronic.

  2. ice your legs for 10 min post run if they start hurting

  3. Check your shoes!! Make sure your shoes fit well and are appropriate for your feet.

  4. Strengthen and stretch your legs. What I mean by this is have a great warm up and warm down routine you do every single time you run! This will ensure decrease in injury.

Spread the word and lets all reach optimal health and wellness together.

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  • Sanchia Ferreira Phsyio
  • Sanchia Ferreira Physiotherapy

Physiotherapist: Douglas, Isle of Man

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