Shin Splints Treatment and Therapy Boulder
North Boulder Physical Therapy Sports Rehabilitation
WHAT ARE SHIN SPLINTS?
By: Debra Layne, PT and Ted Layne, PT, ATC
Shin splints is the name given to pain at the front of the lower leg. There is a sheath surrounding the largest bone of the lower leg (tibia) called the periostium. Due to overuse of running on hard surfaces or sports involving a lot of jumping the periostium becomes inflamed. Additionally, the muscles at their point of attachment to the shin get small tears. Excess training with inadequate recovery is the primary cause. Excess deviation from the usual training regime should be avoided to prevent shin splints. Rapid increase of speed or distance in the training routine must not occur. Muscle imbalances in leg strength and flexibility, insufficient shock absorption and toe running are direct causes when combined with overtraining.
The location of shin splints is along the tibia (shin) in the lower half of the tibia. Pain may be from mild to severe as the injury progresses from a stress reaction to an actual stress fracture; or from a few to many small muscle tears. The first symptom to appear is pain in the first part of the training run which disappears later in the run. The pain may return after exercise or the following morning. At this point, ice, taking aspirin or ibuprofen, stretching the entire lower leg, rest, and greatly reduced running for one to two weeks will result in healing. When running is resumed, never run through pain. Return MUST involve better shoes, much less running distance and more days off running. The mistakes that lead to the injury must not be repeated. We recommend looking at the training routine including pre and post stretching, running surface, shoes, training intensity, workout routine, and hills.
If the injury is more severe or longstanding, physical therapy will be needed. Treatment will involve biomechanical analysis of running, shoe prescription, possibly orthotic prescription, ice massage, soft tissue massage, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and pain free strengthening and flexibility programs to correct muscle imbalances.