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Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)

Shin splints are a common injury in athletes and physically active people. This condition causes pain on the inside of the calf or shin. The technical term is medial tibial stress syndrome and is often caused by overuse, repetitive stress, training errors and biomechanical abnormalities. These issues put increased stress on the tibia (aka shin bone) and cause inflammation and pain.

The most common time to develop shin splints is when changing your exercise routine; this could be increasing intensity, mileage, pace, footwear, terrain or starting a new activity. Runners are the most likely to experience shin splints but dancers, soccer, basketball, and football players can also have this issue.

Once it is determined that your pain is caused by shin splints and not anything more serious it is important to determine what may have caused the increased stress. Often the problem is a training issue (too much, too soon) but footwear, muscle imbalances, foot and ankle mechanics, or restricted movement in the hips, SI joint, or low back may contribute to the pain and need to be addressed.

Chiropractic Treatment of Shin Splints:

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation): This is often the first line treatment for shin splints no matter the cause in order to reduce pain and inflammation as soon as possible. 
  • Chiropractic Adjustments: These joint mobilizations may be used to address biomechanical changes in your foot, ankle knee, hip, or low back that may contribute to increased stress on the tibia.
  • Graston Technique: Involves using specialized instruments to mobilize affected soft tissue to improve recovery and reduce pain (also called instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization-IASTM).
  • Myofascial Release/Trigger Point Therapy: Work on the muscles of the lower leg to loosen tight muscles and fascia to take some of the strain off affected area.
  • Rehab Exercises: Specific exercises may be used in the office or at home to address muscle imbalances, improve strength and endurance, or promote proper tissue healing. 
  • Specific Stretches: Stretches that target the calf or surrounding tissue to regain normal function.
  • Rocktape (kinesio tape):  Tape may be used to support the arch of your foot or address other issues.
  • Electric Muscle stimulation: A gentle current through the calf and surrounding muscles may be used to relax the muscles and reduce pain in order to get the area ready for treatment.
  • Orthotics/insoles: Premade or custom orthotics/insoles may be recommended to provide cushioning or support the arch of the foot. 
  • Compression: wraps or socks while running may give some relief as well.

Sources:

Galbraith RM, Lavallee ME. Medial tibial stress syndrome: conservative treatment options. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2009;2(3):127-133. doi:10.1007/s12178-009-9055-6.

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