Shin splints can be the bane of many athletes, particularly netballers, existence. Albury Osteopath Cameron Bayliss discusses what can be done about them.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints is a blanket term that covers both medial and lateral stress forces on your tibia – or ‘shin bone’. Medial tibial stress syndrome is the pain and inflammation of your shin from having overly tight or damaged muscles that support the inside border of your shin, the most common muscles to affect this are the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior.
Micro tears in the muscles can cause great stress on the tibia and cause inflammation and stress to the outside surface of the bone, causing inflammation and irritation. Shin splints can be in either one leg or both simultaneously.
What causes shin splints?
The cause of shin splints is still being debated; however, it is generally agreed upon to be an overuse injury – often caused by training on hard surfaces and can be exacerbated by a new or increased training load.
Shin splints is a common injury in long distance runners, football codes and dancers. Left untreated, the continual stress placed on the bone can lead to stress fractures and will require immobilisation and long-term recovery to return to sport.
How long will recovery be?
Shin splints is one of those conditions that has no set recovery time. There are a number of risk factors that are commonly predispose individuals to shin splints. A few to consider are gender (sorry ladies), age (those not in their “prime”), strength, stability and balance, personal goals, flexibility, height and weight.
Recovery will be based on how much of the aggravating activity you continue to perform and how long the injury has been present before you have done something about it. We have found that a combination of Osteopathic treatment and shockwave combined, plus giving the appropriate exercises including strengthening and stretching, is our go to way of helping decrease pain, achieve greater flexibility and build strength and endurance.
As I said there is no specific time frame, but I wouldn’t be expecting to get better in any less than 6 weeks for true shin splints.
What are the symptoms?
Earlier stages of shin splints will often cause some dull and minor pain after exercise, making it difficult or painful to walk for a few steps before ‘warming up’.
The pain is most commonly felt in the lower portion of your shin bone on either the inside or the outside portion of the tibia. This pain often spans areas of over 5cm.
This pain will then gradually start to occur during sport or activity and will increase in intensity and duration to the point where exercise can become unbearable
If pain then progresses to the point where it hurts during rest, with pain on the tibia itself can indicate possible stress fractures.
Book in to see one of our fantastic Osteopaths…of course. We can treat with manual therapy, as well as providing a strengthening and stretching program for you. Some commonly used methods of managing them pain include icing after activity, this is often combined as a massage by freezing a water bottle and rolling it along the affected area.
Initially anti-inflammatories may be used to control pain, but in no way is this a solution to fixing the problem. Reducing aggravating activities to allow for the injury to fully recover is vitally important. This includes the frequency, intensity and duration of your chosen exercise.
Our secret weapon……Shockwave!
Another fantastic management tool we have in the clinical is our EWST Shockwave machine.
In the clinic we’ve had some amazing results with immediate pain reduction and improved function. Rompe (2010) found that with shockwave therapy over 85% of participants felt ‘completely recovered’ or ‘much improved’ after 1, 4 and 15 months follow up after only 3 treatment sessions, Incredible!
Dr Cameron Bayliss