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Shin Splints: How to Handle this Active Person’s Problem

shin splints

By Tricia Walker, ATC

Shin splints are a very common injury among active or newly active people. It’s also a very common injury with fall sports athletes who may have been relatively inactive over the summer and then are jumping back into their sport full force come tryouts.

The medical term for this condition is medial tibial stress syndrome. What does this mean? This translates into inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissues surrounding the lower leg or shin region. If you have shin splints, you’ll feel most of the discomfort along the inner part of the shin bone. In most cases, this problem is easily managed and can be treated non-surgically. If not treated though, more serious conditions like stress fractures can occur which will increase treatment time significantly.

Common Causes

The most common cause of shin splints is overuse. This can occur when activity level is increased or changed. These changes can be differences in intensity, duration or even the surface where the activity is taking place. Think about a track runner for example. During the summer, if they’re running primarily on pavement or grass and then are switching to the track or gravel, their body will notice the difference and react to the change. A basic change in running activity is usually the culprit for most cases of shin splints. If you’re running longer distances or on hills, you’re at a higher risk for getting this condition if you don’t prepare your body adequately.

People with very rigid arches or very flat feet are also more prone to medial tibial stress syndrome. Another common cause of shin splints that can be easily resolved is wearing improper footwear when exercising.

Common Symptoms of Shin Splints

This biggest complaint we hear from patients who have shin splints is that they feel pain in the lower leg, specifically along the shin bone. This pain can be very sharp or a dull throbbing ache. Shin splints can impact one or both legs at the same time.

How Can Physical Therapy Help

Physical therapy has countless benefits when it comes to treating shin splints. In physical therapy, we will work not just on resolving the shin splints but also helping correct any deficits that are occurring up and down the patient’s chain that could be contributing to their shin splints. It’s why at physical therapy, we work a lot on stretching, strengthening and stability. Physical therapists will also analyze running gait mechanics. The combination of stretching, strengthening, and gait analysis will ensure a correct recovery along with the tools to continue to strengthen at home to decrease the chances of recurring shin splint injuries.

CLICK HERE to schedule your FREE ASSESSMENT with Loudoun Sports Therapy Center. Our expert physical therapists can evaluate your condition and help you get back to normal!