Shin Splints.. What are they and how do we treat them?

May 9, 2023
5 min read

Are you suffering from shin splints? Don't worry; you're not alone! Shin splints are a common injury that affects many people, especially those who engage in high-impact sports or activities. The good news is that you don't have to stop your favourite activities altogether - there are ways to treat and manage this nasty condition.

Firstly, what are Shin Splints? Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are caused by overuse or repetitive stress on the muscles and tendons that attach to the shinbone. This can lead to pain and discomfort along the shinbone, which is the large bone in the front of your lower leg.

How do we treat them? To put it simply, we have first to find out what the contributing factors to the shin splints are using the principles of regional interdependence, and then we have to manage the load you are putting through your shin.

Regional interdependence recognizes that the body is a complex system where different regions of the body are interconnected and can affect each other. In the case of shin splints, there isn't usually any direct trauma or injury to the shin that creates immediate pain. It usually starts getting sore and worsens the more you continue. The pain in the shin may be a symptom of a problem in another region of the body, such as the hip or ankle. By identifying the biomechanical issues elsewhere in the body contributing to your pain, you can then start to fix the deficiencies in those areas to help manage the pain in your shin. For example, weakness in the lateral hip complex or an inability to stabilize the pelvis during a running cycle may cause the femur to rotate inwards. This, in turn, can create an external rotation at the tibia to maximize alignment, which causes added stress to the shin and can result in shin splints. Hence by increasing the strength in your hip and learning to stabilize and control your pelvis, you can reduce the stress on the muscles and tendons in the lower leg and promote healing.

The other way we look to treat shin splints is load management. This is particularly important in professional athletes or people who cannot take a break from the activity creating pain while correcting their mechanics. Load management is a crucial aspect of preventing and treating shin splints. It involves carefully controlling the amount and intensity of physical activity to avoid overloading the body and causing injury. When the body is overloaded with too much physical activity or repetitive stress, and numerous biomechanical compensations are implemented to cope with the load, the muscles and tendons in the lower leg can become strained and inflamed, leading to shin splints.

A great way to manage load is to work with your movement therapist to establish your functional threshold. Once you understand your functional threshold or the point where your body's tissues start to fail, you can use this information to adjust your training intensity and duration to avoid overloading the muscles and tendons in your lower leg. This may involve decreasing the intensity or duration of your workouts, taking rest breaks, and gradually increasing your activity level over time. Load management also involves other important factors, such as proper footwear, technique, and strength training.

By addressing all of these factors and incorporating the principles of regional interdependence, you can reduce your risk of developing shin splints and promote a healthy, active lifestyle.

You can check out more information on shin splints by following the link to our Instagram page, where you will find a 3 video series on the Diagnosis, Assessment and Treatment of shin splints:

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