Shin pain (or shin splints as it is often referred to) is a very common complaint among athletes and those just commencing a walking or running program. Pain generally occurs in one or more of three areas. These structures include:
1. Lower Leg Bone... The leg bone may experience continuous stress resulting in possible stress fracture or hairline fracture.
2. Lower Leg Muscles... Can be “overused” causing swelling and pain.
3. Lower Leg Bony Lining... This is called the tenoperiosteum. This is the point at which the muscles insert into the bone. The muscular insertions can become inflamed and painful.
The podiatrist must first determine where the pain is coming from with any form of shin splints. This is done through a series of clinical tests and sometimes x-rays or bone scans may be needed. Following diagnosis, appropriate treatment can then be implemented to address the cause of the shin splints.
One of the major causes of pain in the shin structures (bone, bony lining and muscles) is incorrect foot and leg alignment during walking and running.
Incorrect positioning of the foot and leg may lead to poor shock absorption and therefore increased stress on the bone. Abnormal positioning of the feet and legs can also cause muscle fatigue and overuse resulting in inflammation of tendons.
Other causes of shin pain include training errors, poor conditioning, incorrect footwear and training on hard surfaces.
Shin splints treatment involves a number of factors including:
1. Orthotics help to correct foot and leg malalignments which can contribute to muscle overuse.
2. Exercises... stretching and strengthening of muscles may be advised.
3. Training errors must be addressed. Over-striding can be a contributing factor.
4. Footwear is reviewed and renewed where appropriate.
5. Changes in terrain may be indicated especially when training for particular sports or on uneven surfaces.
6. Your podiatrist may suggest specialized massage techniques (deep soft tissue therapy and transverse frictioning) in the treatment of shin splints.
7. Occasionally, rest may be indicated especially when bony stress fractures are present. Stress fractures can require between 4-8 weeks on crutches. During this time swimming, cycling and water running are often advised to maintain fitness levels.
WARNING: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist.
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