REHAB INMOTION: Shin splints: funny name; nothing funny about the pain
By Ben Chatterson
Shin splints is the general name given to pain at the front of the lower leg.
I don’t know why they are called splints. It doesn’t make any sense to me either.
The most common cause of shin splints is inflammation of the sheath surrounding the shinbone. This inflammation is most commonly caused by excessive pulling on the bone by the muscles in the shin. The extra stress on the bone can be caused by many things such as poorly fitting footwear, a sudden change in training, or lack of proper stretching and general flexibility around the ankle. If the shin splints are allowed to go on for a long period of time, lumps and bumps or redness may occur on the inside part of the shinbone.
Treatment for shin splints can be as varied as the number of causes. In all cases, however, the first step is to reduce the pain and inflammation, so that the injury can begin to heal. This is most effectively done with rest and ice. If you are training for a big long run, and it is just not possible to completely rest, try cross training by running in the pool, or using the bike until the symptoms begin to resolve.
Once the pain and inflammation are under control, then it is time to assess the biomechanics of the foot and leg.
Biomechanics is the way that your foot and leg move when you walk and run. A proper assessment of your biomechanics by a physiotherapist can determine if there are any problems in your foot or ankle that need to be corrected to help fix the shin splints.
Stretching exercises for tight lower leg muscles or strengthening exercises for muscle imbalances are often required to restore proper function to the foot and ankle. In some cases, the position of the foot needs to be corrected with orthotic insoles to decrease the amount of stress on the shinbone during walking or running.
As well as stretching and strengthening the muscles around the lower leg to help restore proper function, a physiotherapist may suggest changes to your training program to help reduce the stress on the shinbone and give it time to heal.
Often times, fixing shin splints is as simple as making a few small changes to a training regime, to give the bone time to recover from the stress it is under during training.
There are three easy things that you can do to avoid shin splints. First, avoid rapid changes to a training program.
Try not to increase your running distance by more than ten per cent per week. Second, wear properly fitting running shoes and replace them when they start to get worn out.
Third, make sure that you stretch regularly.
Remember, continuing to run until you can’t walk because your shins are too sore is never really a good idea. Get your pain assessed when it first starts to prevent problems down the road. No pun intended.
Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River – Willow Point (250) 923-3773 and Quinsam (across from Save On Foods), (250) 286-9670 – as well as Comox Valley (250) 334-9670 and Port Alberni (250) 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit www.rehabinmotion.com