What are shin splits?
Shin splints are a symptom of Tibial Stress Syndrome. They are a very common condition and they are not limited to runners. They can be caused by irritated or swollen muscles from overuse (peroneal muscles, calf muscles, etc.), small stress fractures in the tibia or fibula, and/or flat feet causing collapse of the foot arches creating tension on the lower leg and muscles.
What do shin splints feel like?
The most common complaint is pain (sharp, dull, ache) in the shin. Symptoms can occur in one leg, both legs and may be more painful in one leg than the other. Pain can develop gradually over time with over-use or after a single activity. The pain may be felt during an activity, after an activity or constantly. If muscles are irritated and/or swollen they may affect nerves and there may be symptoms into the feet such as weakness, pain and tingling.
What are some treatments for shin splints?
Even though shin splints are caused by different reasons, treatment does not differ much based on the cause of your shin splints.
The first goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation and irritation in the shin. This can be accomplished with icing and rest. Ultrasound therapy is also a common treatment for the early treatment of shin splints to decrease inflammation. Kinesiotape may be applied to increase circulation and relax irritated muscles. Decreasing inflammation will reduce pain and allow tissue healing to occur.
The second goal of treatment is to promote healing of damaged tissue. This is usually accomplished with mobilization, stretching and soft tissue techniques such as Graston therapy and kinesiology taping to break up restrictive scar tissue and allow free ranges of motion.
Correcting any biomechanical issues (flat feet, collapsing arches, etc.) is important to stop the recurrence of shins splints. Orthotics are commonly prescribed to promote proper foot mechanics. Occasionally a walking boot is prescribed for the initial healing of stress fractures in the lower leg bones.Home stretching and icing procedures are instructed to be performed to stop recurrence of shin splints as well as improve poor mechanics.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing shin splint symptoms. Early correction of issues causing symptoms decreases the amount of tissue damage and allows for quicker healing and less recurrence.