Get to the Root of your Shin Splints
Participants in any sport that involves running and jumping can develop shin pain, but this injury is most common among runners. Shin Splints, or more precisely medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), are painful and troublesome. Despite treatment or activity modification, they often recur. MTTS is described as pain and discomfort in the lower leg, often caused by running on hard surfaces, and a running style that requires excessive use of the foot dorsiflexors. Most experts agree that a stress reaction of the fascia, Periosteum, bone, or a combination of these along the posterior medial aspect of the tibia causes the syndrome.
Some of the reasons an athlete may develop shin pain can be related to a change in their training routine, factors such as distance, speed, and running form need to be assessed. What type of terrain is the athlete running on, and what type of shoes are they wearing. MTTS is often caused by a mechanical issue in the running form; the athlete may have some flexibility or strength deficits in their spine, hips or legs. These deficits can transfer stress to other parts of the body such as the foot and shin, as the athlete begins his training or attempts to increase his training, the increased stress in the lower leg will present as pain and discomfort. Often the athlete first notices the discomfort when beginning their workout. As with many overuse injuries, the pain may disappear during activity and return after the workout. As the injury progresses, the discomfort last longer into the run, it eventually persists through the cool down and into daily activities and can localize to become point tenderness.
The goal of treatment for athletes with MTTS is to functionally rehabilitate the lower leg while avoiding the repetitive stresses that caused the injury. As an athletic trainer I will perform a functional movement screen on the athlete, to identify any deficits in flexibility, mobility, and or strength, and design a rehab program to address those deficits. The athlete can use ice and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and relive pain. The athlete can massage the painful and tender area with ice for 8-10 minutes, 2-3 times a day. Switching activities until the athlete can resume running without pain allows time for the injury to heal. No impact, symptom-free activities such as cycling, using an elliptical, or swimming are good options.
Tony Andrejko is a physical therapist assistant and head athletic trainer for ProCare Physical Therapy located in Moscow Pa. Tony provides athletic training services to the North Pocono School District. If you have any questions you can contact Tony at 570-842-8191.