Shin splints are a generic term for pain that’s felt along the front or sides of your leg, below your knee and above your ankle. Athletes of all kinds are affected, but runners are especially prone to having this kind of pain. The pain associated with shin splints occurs from inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and even the bones of your lower leg.
Shin splints are caused by overuse, such as high impact, overtraining, or a sudden increase in your activity. While it frequently occurs from running, shin splints can also affect dancers, gymnasts, tennis players, and other athletes who engage in high impact activities. There are several factors that can increase your risk for shin splints, including:
- Having flat feet
- Having a very high and inflexible arches
- Wearing athletic shoes that are overly worn out
- Wearing shoes that don’t properly support your feet during physical activity
- Engaging in sports that involve a lot of stops and starts
- Running or working out on hard surfaces
- Over pronation when you run (your feet roll inward)
- Running on slanted roads or running on a track consistently in the same direction.
The symptoms of shin splints include pain at the front or side of one or both of your shins that is typically dull and achy. The pain may be worse when you press on the area or during or after a workout, and may be alleviated with ice and several days of rest.
Sports scientists have several theories as to what exactly a shin splint is, including micro tears in the muscle that’s been pulled away from the bone, inflammation of the periosteum (tissue surrounding the bone), or muscle inflammation. However, there are some conditions that shin splints are not. Shin splints may be confused with a stress fracture, which is a crack in the bone. However, the pain associated with a stress fracture is usually sharper and more focal—it can be felt in one distinct place. A stress fracture can be diagnosed through a bone scan, and is considered more serious than shin splints, because a stress fracture runs the risk of becoming a complete fracture of the bone.
Shin splints may also be confused with a condition called compartment syndrome. Your muscles, nerves, and blood vessels are contained in groups surrounded by fascia, called compartments. When the muscles swell within a compartment, it creates pressure that can damage the tissues contained within. In extreme cases, the pressure may need to be decompressed surgically. The pain of compartment syndrome may feel similar to that of shin splints, but over time, compartment syndrome can cause nerve-related sensations and weakness in the affected muscles.
Treating Shin Splints and Shin Pain at BodaHealth
At BodaHealth, we work a great number of athletes and understand their need to get back to their sport as quickly as possible. For that reason, we offer both traditional, tried and true therapies, as well as newer innovative ways to get you back to your activity as soon as possible. Our treatment options include:
-Acupuncture can be effective in not only relieving the pain of shin splints, but it also increases circulation to the affected area, reduces inflammation, and stimulates healing. There are few studies on treating shin splints with acupuncture, however early research suggests that acupuncture can be an effective way to treat the pain related to this condition. In addition to acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a number of healing tools that speed healing and reduce inflammation. Frequently soft tissue injuries are associated with or aggravated by systemic imbalances. An imbalance or deficiency can be remedied through the use of Chinese herbs or dietary therapy. Additionally, hands-on therapies can augment your acupuncture treatment, such as Gua Sha, Tui Na (a type of Chinese massage), heat therapy, electro micro current stimulation, and cupping.
-Shockwave therapy may also be a good option in treating your shin pain. This involves administering pulsed acoustic waves to the injured area to stimulate healing. During shock wave therapy, a machine that uses air compression transmits sound waves into the muscle and surrounding tissue. This helps speed healing by stimulating cellular metabolism, breaks down scar tissue, and promotes circulation to regenerate damaged tissue.
-Acupoint Injection Therapy is a combination of acupuncture and injection therapy. It involves injecting a combination of B vitamins and/or procaine into the affected area to stimulate healing and relieve pain. B vitamins are used because they are natural substances used by your body for cellular growth, building of blood components and protein, and for repairing damaged tissue. When pain is severe, procaine may be added to the mix because it’s a local anesthetic, but it also works to promote circulation and reduce inflammation in the affected tissue.
–Clinical Pilates and Therapeutic exercise are valuable tools for helping our athletic patients get back to their sport. At BodaHealth, our practitioners offer therapeutic exercise and Clinical Pilates in one on one sessions where they will guide you in specific exercises, stretching routines, and movements. Their goal is to help decrease your pain, improve muscle strength, promote circulation, increase endurance, and improve exercise performance while preventing further injury.
-Osteopathy is a natural, non-invasive manual therapy that focuses not only on your injury, but the health of your entire body. Osteopathic treatments are an ideal solution when your injury is related to poor biomechanics or muscular imbalances. It involves hands-on manipulations to correct biomechanical issues, using techniques such as stretching, pressure, and tissue resistance. These manipulations help balance and strengthen your musculoskeletal framework to promote healing, increase circulation, and prevent further injuries.
-Nutritional health and naturopathic medicine also play a role in healing from sports injuries. All too often poor nutrition is an aggravating factor in slow healing, inflammation, and tissue damage. The good news is that our naturopathic doctors are able to perform a complete assessment of your nutritional status, digestion, and screen for any toxicities you may have. They will then prescribe dietary strategies or supplements to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to heal completely, clear inflammation, and perform your best.
Massage therapy, kinesiology, and fascial stretching are also offered at BodaHealth to increase your healing time. Massage therapy focuses on sore and tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments as a way to promote circulation, relax knotted muscles, and reduce pain. Fascial stretch focuses on the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles and organs. Through facilitated movments that follow the lines of your fascial tissue, this kind of stretching can increase the flexibility of your muscles and improve your range of motion. Our kinesiology practitioner uses her expertise in movement, anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics to facilitate your rehabilitation. She has a deep understanding of specific athletic injuries, and can help you develop a strategy for what to do and what to avoid as you heal and help you understand how to avoid injuries in the future.
At BodaHealth, we understand how frustrating athletic injuries can be. Let us help you get back to your active lifestyle as soon as possible. Call us today to find out how to get started.