Shin splints is a condition characterized by pain in the lower leg brought on by running or other athletic activity. It can also be caused or exacerbated by ill-fitting or inadequate shoes past their prime. It is an injury that causes inflammation of the muscles in the lower leg including the posterior tibialis, anterior tibialis, and flexor hallicus longus. The muscles are used in ankle plantar flexion—pointing your forefoot downward and is used in deceleration as seen in runners who do a lot of hill work up and down. Athletes who are required to stop and go frequently, such as in soccer or basketball may also have difficulties with shin splints. In severe cases, the pain does not stop following the end of athletic activity. If left untreated, shin splints can prevent involvement in future athletic activity.
Common treatments for this condition are NSAIDs, rest and ice. These treatments are not always ideal. Long term use of anti-inflammatory medication can cause serious health risks. Rest is not always possible during the height of the athletic season, for those who are weekend warriors, work still calls. These treatments will cause a reduction of symptoms, but will do nothing to prevent shin splints from occurring again.
A Chiropractic Approach to Shin Splints
A chiropractic approach allows the patient to treat the shin splints while limiting the use of NSAIDs. In addition, chiropractic approaches can accelerate the healing process, reducing the need for prolonged rest. Shin splints are caused by injury not a disease process, so of course prevention of the initial injury as well as avoidance of recurrence is ideal.
Chiropractic prevention and treatment for shin splints include:
- running gait analysis to address any muscular imbalances
- manual therapy of the inflamed muscle to speed up the reduction of swelling
- ultrasound therapy
- kinesio taping
- natural topical anti-inflammatory with formulations including arnica, curcumin, boswellia
- education about proper fitting shoes
- custom-made orthotics to reduce over pronation and shock on impact
- icing affected area
Usually with active care, under professional supervision the condition is reduced in a matter of days and under control in weeks. With proper education it is easy to prevent the recurrence of shin splints.
Stretching lower leg muscles such as the Gastrocnemius-Soleus Stretch will help (30secs X 3 sets).
Strengthening exercises for the tibialis posterior and tibialis anterior are also helpful. This done by toe walking and heel walking for several minutes each way 2-3 X per day.