The Pain Known As Shin Splints

Aug 26, 2019

Lauren Keel

by Lauren Keel
PTA, AT, CES | South Chandler Location

It’s that time of year again where we start looking at the calendar and deciding on our next running race. The wintertime in Arizona is when a lot of those happen. Some people don’t use a training schedule although there are some good ones out there. However, sometimes not the following one creates too much too soon. The body isn’t ready for it. One of the most common injuries is shin splints a.k.a. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). MTSS is from increasing training too quickly and the muscles not being able to keep up.

The complaint is usually pain on the inside of the tibia or shin pain.

It can be seen in high-impact sports such as running or dancing. There are some factors to consider such as flat feet, shoe wear and poor warm-ups or cooldowns. Shin splints can be devastating to an athlete and take time to resolve. Resting from the activity is a must. Try non-impact activities such as biking and swimming to keep the cardiovascular benefit while not doing these activities. Ice the area. Look into getting fitted for shoes or inserts. I’ve found that Kinesio taping can be beneficial for decreasing pain and inflammation to the area and giving a feeling of support. Also, finding the right exercises to do are important.

Exercises you can try on your own.

A few exercises you can try to increase strength and stability to the foot and ankle, knee, hip, and core. In regard to the foot, try towel scrunches. Sit on a chair with your foot on the floor. Then put a towel on the floor – preferably on tile or a sliding surface – and scrunch the towel up with your toes. Another exercise is a side-lying clamshell. This is where you lay on your side with your knees bent. Keep your feet together and lift your knee up. Don’t lift your knee up so high that you are rocking backward. Another exercise is a single-leg stance. Stand on one leg and balance for 30 seconds on the floor. If this is easy, then put a pillow underneath your foot. One more exercise you can do is a sidestep with a resistance band. Pick a space where you can step sideways at least 10-15 steps, put a band around your ankles, keep your feet straight and sidestep back and forth.

If you’re doing all of this and finding the pain is still there, then I would follow up with the doctor at this time.

Looking at coming in for physical therapy may also be beneficial. We would do manual techniques with you and create a program for you to do. We can also try modalities at this time. In regard to running, finding the right training program is important because it tells you what days to do what. However, the downfall of some of them is they don’t tell you what exercises to do. One of the programs I’ve used in the past is from Hal Higdon. He has a lot of different ones on his site and I usually refer to that. I believe he even has some exercises that are beneficial to do while you’re training.
Shin splints can be a persistent pain for athletes doing high-impact sports due to the repetitiveness of it. There are ways to possibly prevent it by using the right training programs. Also, getting fitted for shoes or just changing shoes more often can be beneficial. Trying exercises to help with strength and stability or trying modalities such as ice or Kinesio taping can make a big difference. It’s best not to push through it.

If pain persists, come into a Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy near you to get you back to where you want to be.

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