If you’re a runner, you know how important it is to feel your best and stay in top shape. Shin splints occur when the muscle and tissue around the tibia bone of the leg are strained and become inflamed. This is most often due to repetitive overuse and can be incredibly painful. Following are some common causes.
- Sudden increases in mileage
- Sudden changes in training such as adding hills, trails, or sprints
- Wearing old, worn-out, or unsupportive shoes while running
- Muscle imbalances such as weakness of the thigh/hip muscles forcing the smaller muscles of the lower leg to work much harder during running
- Poor running technique/form producing more impact and strain on the lower legs
Knowing how to treat shin splints can help you heal and get back to your regular running routine.
Rest and Active-Rest
An initial period of rest from running and other impact activity for 3-7 days after initial onset or a flare-up is smart. The runner could still engage in active-rest by adding in mild-moderate intensity biking or swimming, no-impact resistance training, or other exercise which doesn’t exacerbate the shin splint symptoms. Most often walking at a mild-moderate pace doesn’t produce the pain either. This can give the muscle and tissue time to heal without losing momentum in your training.
Icing your lower leg along the affected area is useful for relieving shin splint pain. When you apply ice, you can reduce any inflammation in the muscle and connective tissue. This can be performed using a cold pack or ice bag on the area for 10-20 minutes, or alternatively using an ice cup to gently rub the ice directly into the area in small circles for 2-3 minutes or until the area is numb.
Stretching between icing sessions will give you some pain relief and help you recover with less chance of it becoming a chronic condition. It’s often recommended to start with gentle active range of motion of the ankle up-down, side-side, and circles in both directions and only to the point of pain. Shin splints are not a “No Pain, No Gain” scenario! Stretches by using one of your hands to gently pull the toes up and then down for 10-30 seconds each can also relieve tightness in the muscles/tendons of the lower leg. Once again, only to the point of any pain and not through it!
If you have tried to treat shin splints on your own and it’s not getting better, seeing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a smart next step. This should include an exam with muscle testing to identify any possible imbalances and a video treadmill analysis to optimize running form/technique. Treatments should include neuromuscular re-education to improve muscle recruitment, stretching, soft tissue and joint mobilizations, modalities to reduce inflammation, and improving running form to reduce repetitive strain and recurrence. Think of this as a pit stop to keep a Formula 1 car in the race. The goal is to find solutions that will get you back to running without pain.
Need to Treat Shin Splints Near Seattle?
If you want the best physical therapy in the Seattle area, the team at Advance Physical Therapy is here to help. Located in Burien, we use evidence-based treatments to deliver care you can trust to address pain after a surgery, an accident, or almost any form of musculoskeletal injury. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you get the care you need.
Experienced, Recommended Physical Therapy to Treat Shin Splints Near Seattle
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