What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints can be painful stress injuries that are experienced by both athletes and non-athletes alike. There are many solutions available to help those who suffer, including chiropractic treatment. Shin splints (“medial tibial stress syndrome”) is pain in the tibia (shinbone), resulting from physical activity and the excessive amount of stress that has been put on the connective tissues and shinbone. It is most commonly experienced by those who partake in physical activities such as basketball, soccer, and tennis players, and runners, as well, are susceptible to shin splints.1 Symptoms include “shooting pain” from the ankle to the knee. The shinbone itself may feel sore. Most shin splints are minor, but they can, if left untreated for too long, lead to a repetitive stress fracture.2
Treatment and Prevention
Most shin splints can be resolved with standard conservative care that most patients may perform on themselves at home, such as icing, rest, and wearing proper footwear. Exercise routines will also need modification to temporarily and safely compensate for the injury and to correct improper performance in order to prevent future injury.3 It is important to avoid working through the pain, as this is in no way beneficial for patients in the long run. More serious injuries need to be prevented. One way of reducing inflammation is massaging the shins with frozen water. Some patients may benefit from taping the shin or using an Ace bandage. Muscle compression limits the movement in the area so that it has time to recover.
It may still be advisable that patients consult some form of medical professional to be sure that they are not improperly compensating or negatively affecting recovery with some at-home treatments. A medical doctor may also suggest anti-inflammatory medications (i.e., aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, etc.). However, these only provide temporary relief and does not address the underlying problem.
For The Physically Active Patients
Various athletic insoles are also available to help “soften the blow” when the foot hits the ground. Exercise should be done on more “forgiving surfaces”, such as gravel, grass, wood floors, and even asphalt. Avoid hard materials like concrete or cement if possible. It should not be done on hills, at least until recovery has progressed to a point where patients are given the okay to lightly increase the stress put on their body. Cross-training is another way to rest the shin splints while also strengthening and benefiting other areas of the mind and body. For example, runners can try cycling or swimming to keep up the exercise while the shins heal. Swimming especially is one of the most commonly used methods of physical rehabilitation for patients of a wide variety of conditions.
Athletes should always remember to warm up and stretch before engaging in strenuous physical activity in order to prevent injuries in the first place. Cooling down at the end of a workout could also provide some benefits.4
Sometimes non-athletes get shin splints too. This is especially true for those who stand on their feet for long stretches of time, professionally or otherwise, such as hairdressers. No matter who has the shin splints, chiropractors have solutions to offer. Treatment from a chiropractor “focuses on returning the biomechanics of the foot and knee to proper function…allowing it to heal”. Chiropractors may recommend foot orthotics, as improper footwear is often found to further contribute to injury in other areas of the body, beyond what is already done to the feet.
Active Release Muscle Therapy
In addition to footwear recommendations, Active Release muscle therapy can decrease spasms and scar tissue. Active Release is a soft tissue therapy in which the practitioner applies precise tension with “specific patient movements”. The treatment is interactive and can produce immediate improvement in strength, pain, and flexibility. Chiropractors will also make sure they treat related conditions, such as runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and whatever else physically or mentally ails the patient that might be treated through the application of chiropractic care.5
Prevention is especially important in chiropractic care. Shin splints are a repetitive injury. There are certain exercises medical professionals recommend to the patient to try and engage in that can help prevent them. Strengthening the muscles and exercising with proper techniques are the keys to prevention. Shortcuts in exercising that could seem like a good idea in the short term could come with harmful side effects after these improper techniques are performed in the long run.
The Graston Technique can also be effective in treating shin splints. It involves “ice, rehab exercises, stretching, and kinesio-taping”. Any kinesio tape that is applied may last for several days for continuous correction before the patient has to remove it. Chiropractors may also perform knee, lower back, SI, ankle, and foot manipulations.6 It is important that patients have properly supported arches, do not overpronate (roll the foot), and have proper joint functioning.7
1, 3 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shin-splints/DS00271