Physical Therapy for Shin Splints
What are shin splints?
Shin splints is a common term that refers to pain along or slightly behind the shin (Tibia). Shin splints or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome are common complaints in runners and athletes who participate in sports that involve a lot of sudden starts and stops. This condition is usually a result of over loading of the muscles of the lower legs or from bio-mechanical problems in the foot or lower leg.
Several of the muscles in the lower leg can be a cause of shin splint pain. It is believed that inflammation of these muscles as well as continued trauma from over training causes the pain. The muscles of the lower leg that are often involved include the Gastrocniemus, Anterior Tibialis, Posterior Tibialis, and Soleus.
How are Shin Splints Diagnosed?
Shin Splints are usually diagnosed during the examination and based on patient history. Tenderness along the muscles of the anterior leg can be a telling sign but is not exclusive to shin splints. More testing (MRI, Bone Scan, or X-Rays) may be necessary if the diagnosis is unclear or to rule out a stress fracture)
Treatment of Shin Splints
Current trends for treatment includes a multifaceted approach of relative rest since complete rest is usually very difficult for athletes to do. This approach may include bicycling to maintain cardiovascular fitness, ice packs, anti-inflammatory meds, ace wrapping for support, calf and anterior shin stretching and strengthening. A gradual re-introduction into running can begin when symptoms have resolved. It is recommended that running begin on a soft level terrain, distance and pace reduced 50% compared to pre-injury levels. Distance is gradually increased first followed by increased pace.
Please keep in mind that the extent of the injury and the level of pre-injury activity play a key role in determining treatment duration.
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