What are Shin Splints?
Many athletes that rely on their legs as key pieces of equipment, such as runners or dancers, are prone to injuries in this area. Whether you’re new to these activities or a seasoned pro, anyone can fall victim to sore shins. This pain is often found down the inner (medial) part of the lower leg, along the inside of the shin and is commonly referred to as ‘shin splints’. Often an athlete experiencing shin splints will first notice a dull ache after exercise. Over time the pain will become apparent during exercise and can become more constant. In severe cases it can lead to shooting pains along the shin and prevent a person from exercising.
The correct, medical term for this injury is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. More research is needed to correctly determine the pathology of shin splints. It is thought to be due to excess stress being put on one or more of the muscles that attach directly onto the surface of the tibia (or shin bone), and/or the fascia (connective tissue). The muscle fibres pull on the outer layer of the bone (periosteum) and fascia as the muscles contract. The resulting inflammatory process is likely to cause a build up of pressure in the area leading to pain.
Why Am I Suffering With Shin Splints?
There is no definitive reason why people experience this issue. It could be due to multiple factors including:
- Severe overpronation (flat feet) where the foot rolls inwards more that it should when in contact with the floor.
- A sudden change in your activity level.
- Badly fitting, worn out or inappropriate running shoes.
- Having tight calf muscles, weak ankles, or a tight achilles tendon.
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces.
- Running on hills
- Sufferers will often feel the onset of shin splints when starting out at a new activity, after coming back from injury or if they’ve increased the frequency or intensity of training. Commonly a change to your training regime can trigger shin splints.
What Can I Do?
- Recognise the symptoms early and act promptly. If you notice soreness on either side of the shin after exercise, ice and elevate the leg. Ice is great for reducing the inflammation. We always tell our patients to keep a bag of frozen peas handy in the freezer, they make a great ice pack. Just place the ice pack on the painful area, with the leg elevated, for around 15 minutes at a time, a few times a day for a few days following the onset of symptoms. Anti-inflammatory painkillers may add additional relief.
- If the pain persists for more than a week, take a break from the aggravating activity. Swim, cycle, or do other low-impact exercise for a few days.
- At Bradley Physio our physiotherapists are trained in the moulding and fitting of Bespoke Custom Made Orthotics – commonly shin splints occurs in people with overpronated or flat feet. The plantar fascia is placed under increased stretch by the tension caused through the arch of the foot. Orthotics moulded to your foot will reduce the strain placed on the plantar fascia and help to alleviate your symptoms. Click here for more details.Evaluating your running shoes is also a good idea. Do you have 300-500 miles wear on your shoes? Is it time for a new pair?
Custom Fitted Orthotics often help with shin splint symptoms as they help to increase the support available for the foot by helping to limit overpronation and prevent excessive rotation through the lower leg during the stance phase of gait. Our qualified physiotherapists are able to fit you with moulded, bespoke insoles moulded to fit your feet perfectly.
- Stand facing a wall in a step standing position with your painful leg BEHIND you. Keep your toes pointing forwards and your heel on the floor. Lean forwards into the wall bending your front knee and KEEPING YOUR KNEE STRAIGHT. You should feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. This is primarily stretching the part of the calf known as the Gastrocnemius muscle.
- Stand facing a wall in a step standing position with your painful leg IN FRONT of you. Keep your toes pointing forwards and your heel on the floor as your gently bend your FRONT knee pushing your kneecap towards the wall. You should feel a stretch in the lower calf towards the back of the ankle. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. This is primarily stretching the part of the calf known as the Soleus muscle.
- Stand facing a step. Place your heel on the step. Keep your knee and low back straight. Lean forwards slowly from your hips to feel a stretch through the back of the thigh.Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
- Shoulder bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees and feet on the floor. Slowly lift your hips from the floor. Hold 2-3 seconds then slowly lower. Repeat 10-20 times.
- Tissue grabbing -Start by placing a couple of tissues on the floor and then proceed to pick the tissues up one by one with your feet. Do this for two minutes twice a day.
- Calf & foot strengthening – Roll up a small hand towel to form a sausage shape. Stand on a step with your heel hanging over the edge and your rolled up towel under your toes. Slowly sink your weight down into your heel, stretching the ankle, the push up onto your tiptoes. Repeat 10-15 times, 3 times a day.
- Stand on one leg. perform a mini squat (not too deep), making sure your knee cap points forwards over your second toe. Repeat 10-20 times. Progress by performing on an uneven surface (cushion).
For any future help or advice feel free to contact us.