Physiotherapy for shin splints helps joggers, dancers, and athletes who put constant pressure on the lower part of the legs – knees, shin, and feet, to ease down the discomfort and heal the injury that’s showed up due to overuse. Runners that run on hard concrete surfaces or members of the military who train under a strict and harsh regimen are especially prone to shin splints accompanied by knee pain. Shin splints are medically known as “medial (anterior) tibial stress syndrome” or “posterior tibial stress syndrome”, depending on whether they occur in the front or the back of the lower half of the leg.
Shin Splints Physio: Causes and Diagnosis Before Treatment
Shin splints are a typical overuse injury and often occur due to excessive use of the foot flexors. Due to the constant repetitive stress of a single physical activity, the tibia bone that’s below the knee at the front of the leg suffers tiny fractures, causing pain for the person in question.
It’s not only the bone that’s affected. Muscles can also suffer, as well as the tenoperiosteum – the outside shell that covers the bone and connects it to the tendons, causing tenoperiostitis or tendon inflammation.
Other common causes for patients who feel shin and knee pain to seek shin splints treatment include:
- Starting exercise without warming up and stretching beforehand
- Overtraining or overextending one’s physical limits too early
- Insufficient rest between exercises
- Inadequate footwear
- A weak core, buttocks muscles, or quadriceps
- Tight hamstrings
- Anatomical or biomechanical built or coordination in the lower part of the body, including hip-knee-leg control, overpronated or oversupinated feet, and inflexible ankle joints
Taking a full-body medical before starting any exercise program can help you learn about your body strengths, as well as identify any potential weak spots which can weaken further if overused.
To diagnose shin splints and assign appropriate shin splints treatment, a doctor may need to use a variety of diagnostics tools:
- Physical examination
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Ultrasound testing
- Electromyographical testing (EMG)
By asking about your medical history, and your habit and lifestyle, the orthopedic specialist will asses the severity of the injury, develop a well-rounded opinion and assign shin splints exercises and additional aids you can use to improve your condition.
Effective Physiotherapy for Shin Splints
Shin splints physio encompasses exercise programs, supportive medical wear and appropriate footwear, as well as taking painkillers and leaving enough recovery time between exercises. The best way to avoid shin splints pain is to prevent it.
Preventative Physio for Shin Splints
When living in urban areas, running on hard surfaces is often unavoidable. Therefore, wear well-padded shoes and shock-absorbing footwear if running or jumping on concrete, especially if you have flat feet. Don’t forget to replace old sports shoes when their time runs out.
Always warm-up and stretch before workouts and don’t forget to stop immediately if you feel pain. Learn to distinguish between good pain – the one that occurs due to building muscle strength, and bad pain – the one that occurs due to injury.
Neoprene sleeves are a good support to warm up the lower leg.
Losing weight can help you ease the load on the shin, as well as the knee and hip, and relieve pain.
Shin Splints Exercises for Stretching
Stretching is an effective measure for most physical injuries, both as preventative and restorative shin splints treatment. To reduce pain and inflammation, a physiotherapy specialist will advise a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises, including:
- Seated and bent knee ankle dorsiflexion and calf stretch
- Straight knee and bent knee calf wall stretch
- Toe and heel walking for stretching and strengthening
- Standing ankle dorsiflexion stretch
- Wall toe raises
- Footstep holds
Your exercise program may variate in frequency. The doctor can also suggest modified exercise versions, so don’t forget to mention all shin splints symptoms you feel to your doctor to create a more effective and targeted set of exercises.
Shin splints don’t necessarily mean you need to stop exercising. Unless you’re in an advanced phase of shin splints, you can usually continue exercising moderately.
A trained physiotherapist will propose activity modification, advising against overly using your lower body part, including less stressful cardio exercises for the shin bones such as swimming or cycling. Increased range of motion (IRM) exercises can also be part of the physio for shin splints.
At its worst, painful shins may require comprehensive physiotherapy for shin splints, including manual therapy and kinesio taping to treat acute pain and swelling. You will need to self-support with RICE recovery, too (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Gait and footwear analysis helps diagnose walking patterns and recommend medical footwear.
This combined approach to shin splints treatment is particularly effective for athletes who must return to their sports as soon as possible. By consulting with a physiotherapist, you can devise a gradual regiment to go back to your regular activities without causing more serious injuries or pain.