An athlete with shin splints must perform leg stretching exercises followed by strengthening to prevent the conditioning from returning.
Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome is often seen in athletes who participate in running and jumping sports. It is characterized by pain in the lower leg between the knee and ankle and symptoms increase with repeated overuse.
The condition is most prevalent in teenagers especially runners and aerobic dance instructors. Diagnosis of the condition by clinicians is palpable tenderness along the medial aspect of shank and anterior tibialis muscle. Here we are going to discuss the causes and prevention of shin splints.
While the exact cause of the ailment is unknown shin splints can be attributed to the mechanical stress in the region. Falling behind on leg stretching exercises is a factor in the onset of the condition. Other causes are weakness of the core musculature, tightness of calf musculature and foot tendons. These are the reasons for overload on the anterior shank region. Another cause is related to the patients excessive pronation of the foot or commonly known as flat feet. When runners or dancers intensify their workout routines or change their running surfaces to asphalt signs of shin splints occur.
The initial treatment for this condition is rest and ice applications. Ice should be applied for approximately 20 minutes a couple times per day. Patient can also take anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling, sensitivity and inflamed muscle fibers. Over the counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen work well. To support the anterior shank it is sometimes advisable to use a neoprene sleeve during weight bearing. The use of arch supports in the case of flat feet is extremely helpful in reducing the weight bearing stress on the anterior tibialis muscle and tibia.
Under the guidance of a physical therapist leg stretching exercises will be outlined emphasizing the calf muscles. Strengthening exercises focusing on hip and lower leg is a must. To accelerate healing the physical therapist can implement electrical stimulation, ultra sound and cold level light laser. These modalities reduce inflammation, relax the involved muscles and soften tissue.
There are four easy steps to follow on preventing the onset of shin splints.(1) Most important is leg stretching exercises followed by a routine of strengthening best when demonstrated by a physical therapist. (2) Wear proper fitting shoes (3) stop working out with the start of pain in the area and (4) Avoid running or playing on hard surfaces. Shin splints take time to heal from 3-6 months. The patient must understand that if you rush back to your usual sport or exercise before healing then there is a risk of permanent damage.