Marathon season is in full swing, which means the aches and pains may be adding up for you! One of the most common injuries we see in runners of all distances is “shin splints” or medial tibial stress syndrome. Shin splints affect the muscles and tissues on the front of the leg, and is believed to result from repetitive contraction of those muscles during running, jumping, or other high impact activities. These repetitive contractions on the leg can result in myofascial strain, inflammation, and bony stress reaction which lead to pain. In this month’s blog, we are going to cover ways you can help prevent shin splints at home as well as what to do if you are dealing with them now!
When dealing with shin splints, one place we like to start is with some foam rolling. Foam rolling your leg can help to reduce pain and the feeling of “tightness” that can come with lots of running. When dealing with shin splints, rolling both your calves and your shins themselves is most beneficial! To roll your calves, begin in a long-sitting position on the floor with a foam roller under your affected calf. Use your arms to elevate your upper body while applying pressure to your calf on the foam roller. Slowly rock forward and backward over tender spots with varying degrees of inward and outward position of your foot to work all areas. If you find a tender spot, maintain steady pressure on that area while you slowly flex and extend your ankle several times. This same process can be repeated for the shin, but using your arms to hold yourself over the foam roller and placing your shin on the roller. Repeat for both legs.
After foam rolling the leg, we like to move on to some stretches. There are a variety of ways to stretch the calf muscles, but stretching the shin muscles can be a little trickier! To start, sit in a chair and place the top of your involved foot on the floor. Roll your foot so that more of your great toe side is touching the ground. Slowly move forward in your chair pushing down on your foot until a stretch is felt. Repeat for both legs.
Now that you have foam rolled and stretched your leg, we want to take some time to strengthen the leg. To address the shin splints themselves we want to focus on the shin muscles themselves. One way to do this is by sitting with your involved leg crossed over your uninvolved leg. Loop a piece of resistance tubing over your forefoot and secure it beneath your foot on the floor, then stabilize your lower leg with one hand. Against the resistance of the elastic, roll your involved foot upward, as though you are attempting to look at the bottom of your foot. Repeat for both legs.
If this at home care program does not fix your symptoms, then we recommend getting on our schedule! A thorough evaluation could provide more information about your situation. We have multiple forms of treatment that can be used to address shin splints, including instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, dry needling, and NormaTec compression boots. If our treatments in office do not provide relief, it is possible that the bony stress reaction has developed into a stress fracture. In situations where stress fractures are suspected, x-ray imaging is ordered to confirm, and our care plan is catered to promote proper healing.
If you or someone you know is experiencing shin splint-type symptoms, schedule a visit today!