What exactly are shin splints? Are they treatable?
Shin splints are a condition characterized by damage and inflammation of the connective tissue joining muscles to the inner shin bone (tibia). Shin splints are known by many different names such as: Medial Tibial Tenoperiostitus, MTSS, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, Tenoperiostitus of the Shin, Inflammatory Shin Pain, Traction Periostitis, and Posterior Shin Splint Syndrome.
Several muscles lie at the back of the lower leg, and are collectively known as the calf muscles. The tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallicus, and soleus are muscles that lie deep within the calf and attach to the inner border of the tibia. Connective tissues are responsible for attaching these muscles to the tibia known as the tenoperiosteum. Every time the calf contracts, it pulls on the tenoperiosteum. When the tension becomes forced too much or is repeated frequently, the damage is caused to the tenoperiosteum. The results are inflammation and pain. Shin splints can also occur in combination with other pathologies that cause shin pain such as compartment syndrome and tibial stress fractures.
Patients who suffer from shin splints experience pain along the inner border of the shin. In other cases, the patient may experience an ache or stiffness along the inner aspect of the shin that increases with rest (typically and night or first thing in the morning). Areas of muscle tightness, thickening, or lumps may also be felt in the same area of pain.
There are several factors that predispose patients to shin splints:
• Excessive training or exercise
• Poor foot posture (especially in patients with flat feet)
• Inappropriate footwear
• Inadequate warm-up• Training on hard or inappropriate surfaces
• Muscle weakness (especially in calve muscles)
• Tightness in specific joints (such as ankle)
• Tightness in specific muscles (calves especially)
• Poor lower limb biomechanics
• Poor training techniques or methods
• Leg length differences
• Poor balance
• Being overweight
• Poor core stability
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Physiotherapy treatment for patients with shin splints is vital to speed up the healing process. Physiotherapy will ensure the most optimal outcome and reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Treatment may comprise of the following:
- Deep tissue massage
- Joint mobilization
- Dry needling
- PNF stretches
- Arch support taping
- The use of orthotics or shock-absorbing insoles
- Biomechanical correction
- Ice or heat treatment
- Exercises to improve flexibility, balance, strength, and core stability
- Activity modification advice
- Anti-inflammatory advice
- Footwear advice
- Weight loss advice where appropriate
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If you happen to suffer from shin splints and you are looking for a way to relieve pain, stress, and improve overall health, try adding physical therapy to a routine wellness plan. Our physiotherapists at Triangle Physiotherapy can be a powerful ally when combating daily stress, muscle pain, and general health issues when it comes to shin splints. Not only does physical therapy relieve pain, increase energy levels, and improve overall physical and mental performance, it prevents further injuries.
Click HERE to book an appointment with a physiotherapist at one of our eight locations.