NOT ALL SHIN PAIN IS ACTUALLY “SHIN SPLINTS”!
Shin splints are tiny stress fractures along the shin bone where the stress on the shin bone is at its greatest. This third stage of shin pain only occurs if you continue to train with pain for quite some time and requires complete rest from activity.
The earlier stages of shin pain are more common and can be treated successfully. First stage being micro tears of the muscles in front of the shin bone, second stage occurring when the micro tears and inflammation place increase pressure on the fascia which encases the shin muscles and inserts into the shin bone. If ignored, this increased stress on the shin bone from the tight fascia may lead to shin splints.
What are the signs and symptoms of Shin Pain?
Typically, shin pain begins as an ache along your shinbone following exercise, which gradually progresses until you experience pain throughout exercise as well. The pain will be exacerbated by high impact activities like running and jumping, and may be accompanied by palpable, tender lumps along the shin, indicating areas of inflammation.
What causes Shin Pain?
Shin pain is a common problem during the early stages of an exercise program, which can affect people of all fitness levels. Shin pain often results from doing ‘too much, too soon’, and failing to allow your muscles and bones recover between sessions.
Other predisposing factors include:
- Abnormal foot alignment – if your feet roll in (pronate) excessively, the muscles in your legs become overworked, causing inflammation at their attachment to the shin bone
- Abnormal foot alignment – if you have high arch (supinated) rigid feet which offer poor shock absorption, increased shock and stress is transferred to the shin muscles
- Excessively tight calf muscles
- Worn-out, poorly cushioned, unsupportive footwear
- Hard training surfaces, like cement or bitumen
What are the treatments?
Treatment depends on the individual and what stage of shin pain you may have, but may involve the following:
- Calf and shin stretches and strengthening exercises
- Ice, massage, dry needling and anti-inflammatory gels
- Reduce training load and intensity (try alternative exercises like swimming, cycling and upper body weights which have less impact on the lower limb)
- Improve footwear (correct support and midsole cushioning)
- Customised Foot Supports (Orthotics) to reduce over-pronation and increase shock absorption
- Shockwave therapy to promote body’s self-healing and reduce inflammation