Years ago I developed something called shin splints. Attracted to the neighborhoods and running paths around Vancouver, I became a regular runner. However, the pain of shin splints stopped me in my tracks—they really hurt!
If you’re not familiar with shin splints, be thankful. It’s a painful condition that occurs along the front and sides of your shins. Shin splints are a condition that’s caused by inflammation and micro-tears in the muscles, tendons and even the bones along the front of your lower legs.
Athletes in many different sports can be affected by shin splints, but runners are especially susceptible to this kind of injury. That’s because high impact, overuse and a sudden increase in your training regimen are common reasons people develop shin splints. In addition, having flat feet or high arches and wearing worn-out or improper shoes for your sport can contribute to developing this kind of shin pain. If you’re a runner, putting in a lot of miles on hard surfaces, running most of your miles on a track or a slanted road and overpronating (feet rolling inward) can also be a recipe for shin splints.
From my own bout with shin splints, I found that the pain can be intense. It usually is felt at the front or side of one or both of your lower legs, and is deep, dull and achy. The pain may be aggravated by a workout and is often relieved by several days of rest.
So what can you do about shin splints?
The first and easiest thing to do is to give your legs a rest. The second is to get some help. Fortunately, at BodaHealth we have the tools and expertise to offer you help. We’ve worked with many athletes who have suffered from shin splints, and our practitioners are well-acquainted with how best to treat them. Our recommendations include:
- Acupuncture, as a way to relieve the pain in your lower legs, increase circulation to the area, reduce inflammation and promote healing. In addition to acupuncture, Gua Sha may be helpful. It’s a technique used by practitioners of Chinese medicine and physical therapists alike (they call it Graston Technique) that involves scraping the injured tissue with the dull edge of a tool to loosen up the muscles, promote circulation and speed up healing.
- Cold laser therapy, which is a kind of light therapy that painlessly penetrates deep into the inflamed tissue and promotes beneficial changes at the cellular level. Cold laser therapy helps to reduce pain, decrease inflammation and help repair damaged tissue and micro-tears.
- Shockwave therapy, which involves treating the area with pulsed acoustic waves as a way to promote healing. During a shockwave treatment, a device that uses air compression transmits sound waves into the damaged muscle and surrounding tissue. This helps promote circulation, breaks down scar tissue regenerates tissue to speed up the healing process.
- Massage therapy promotes circulation to the injured area, loosens up sore and tight muscles and helps to reduce pain. Not only does massage therapy feel good, but it also helps to reduce the time it takes to heal.
- Exercise physiology has a dual purpose. Our practitioner uses his expertise in movement, physiology and biomechanics to prescribe stretches and exercises to help in the recovery process. However, with his deep understanding of athletic injuries, he is able to help you develop a strategy for avoiding further injury in the future.
Ultimately, with the help of acupuncture, Gua Sha and a good deal of rest, my shin splints healed. Looking back, I wish cold laser therapy existed at that time and that I had also turned to massage therapy and worked with an exercise physiologist. I believe that my recovery from shin splints would have been even faster!
If you need help recovering from shin splints or other athletic injuries, contact us to find out more about how acupuncture, cold laser and other natural therapies can help you.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.