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Shin Splints

Waterford Chartered Physiotherapy clinic encounters many shins splints sufferers at two specific times in the year – late January when people have hit the roads with renewed vigour after the over-indulgences of Christmas and mid Summer when the ground gets hard and field game players have increased games.

The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the shinbone (tibia) — the large bone in the front of your lower leg. Shin splints are common in runners, field game players and dancers. Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints often occur in athletes who have recently intensified or changed their training routines. The muscles, tendons and bone tissue become overworked by the increased activity.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of shin splints include tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner part of your lower leg. This may occasionally be associated with mild swelling in your lower leg. At first, the pain may stop when you stop running or exercising. Eventually, however, the pain may be continuous.

Shin splints are usually diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam. In some cases, an X-ray or other imaging studies can help identify other possible causes for your pain, such as a stress fracture.

Risk Factors

You’re more at risk of shin splints if:

  • You’re a runner, especially just beginning a running program
  • You play sports on hard surfaces, with sudden stops and starts
  • You run on uneven terrain, such as hills
  • You’re in military training
  • You have flat feet or high arches

Treatment

In most cases, you can treat shin splints with simple self-care steps:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort — but don’t give up all physical activity. While you’re healing, try low-impact exercises, such as swimming, bicycling or water running.
  • Ice the affected area. Apply ice packs to the affected shin for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day for several days. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Physiotherapy:
    • Manual techniques such as massage and dry needling can help speed up the recovery process
    • Prescription with orthotics can help alleviate shin splints pain and prevent future flare ups
    • Prescription with a programme of stretching and strengthening exercises for the calf muscles can help in the recovery process and also help prevent future recurrences of shin splints