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What are Shin Splints?

Experiencing Calf Pain?  Maybe It’s Shin Splints!

glebe chiropractic clinic + massage therapy centre shin splints blog post

Have you ever felt pain with after a long period of running in the lower leg?  You may have been experiencing shin splints.  The term “shin splints” is a catch-all term for general leg pain felt below the knee.  They can be felt on the front outside part of the leg (known as anterior shin splints) or on the inside of the leg (known as medial shin splints).  They plague many athletes especially runners, dancers and tennis players.  

What Can You Do?

So how do we get shin splints and what can we do to avoid them?  People who experience shin splints often do too much, too soon.  What that means is they may build up their training schedule too quickly without allowing the muscles time to adapt.  If you are a running, for example, and you quickly switch from running on flat surfaces to running hills, or if you add too much mileage too quickly, you will be more likely to experience shin splints.

Identifying A Shin Splint

First, we need to know how to identify shin splints.  Pain in the calf can also be caused by stress fractures, compartment syndrome, or muscle injury for example.  These would require different treatment than a shin splint.  If you are unsure of what is causing the pain in your leg, please consult your healthcare provider.

 

Shin splint pain tend to generalize.  You are typically unable to press along your leg and find a very specific point of pain.  You may experience an increase in pain when trying to flex your foot at your ankle when suffering from shin splints.  Most describe the pain as a dull ache in the front part of the lower leg that worsens with exercise.

 

There are differing opinions as to what shin splints actually are.  Some evidence suggests that they are small tears in the muscle the is pulling away from the bone or that it’s an inflammatory process where the sheath of tissue (periosteum) which covers the bones in the calf are inflamed and therefore painful.

 

What Causes Shin Splints?

 

Overpronation:  If you are more flat-footed, you may be more likely to experience shin splints from the extra stress placed on your muscles and joints in your legs as you walk and run.  Solution: Pick shoes that are right for your foot type.  A sneaker which is considered a stability shoe or has motion control would be best for this foot type.  Also, our shoes do have a lifespan and need to be replaced regularly!  If you are noticing leg, foot or knee pain, have a look at your sneakers.  Maybe it’s time for a new pair!  Consider orthotics.  Custom orthotics are cast specifically for your foot and provides the proper support.  Our chiropractors are trained in recommending and casting orthotics.

 

Inadequate Stretching:  If your leg muscles are overly tight, you are more likely to experience leg pain.  Solution:  Stretch!  I don’t think we can say this enough.  Stretching regularly can help with a multitude of aches and pain.  You can do so at home by setting aside just a few minutes a day.  There are several apps available to help guide you with your stretching.  Add yoga into your routine!  

 

Uneven Surfaces:  If you find yourself running on uneven surfaces regularly, it may be time to find a new route.  The constant extra strain placed on your calf muscles may lead to shin splints.  As well, most sidewalks have a slight slope to them.  This too can lead to shin splints.  Solution:  Vary the terrain you run on.  Give your muscles a break from uneven ground by having at least a portion of your run be on a flat surface.  Change up your route.  If you alway go in one direction from start to finish, switch it up and start where you normally finish.  This will help even out the stress from the sidewalk slope.  

 

What Else Can You Do?

 

If you are experiencing shin splints, you should immediately decrease your training.  For how long is dependent on the extent and severity of pain.  You should gradually return to your regular level of activity as the pain resolves, being mindful to not do too much too quickly.  

 

Ice the area that is painful.  This can be helpful for pain relief in that it can help to reduce inflammation.  Ice for 15-20 min at a time on the affected area.

 

Switch to a lower impact activity such as swimming or cycling while you recover.  This allows you to stay active without further injuring the area.  And there always the extra bonus of the benefit of cross training.

 

Book an appointment with your chiropractor and massage therapist.  Our health care providers are experts in body biomechanics.  We can help assess what may be contributing to your injury and aid you in the healing process.

 

We hope these tips help you along your way to a happy and healthy summer.

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