The term “shin splints” or “Shinsplints” is a general name for the pain at the front of the lower leg or the shin. The pain in the shin area is caused by inflammation or damage to the sheath surrounding the bone called Tibia. Tibia is one of the two bones forming our lower leg, and plays a crucial role in making us move. Shin Splints occur because of overuse/overload of the leg area.
Often suffered by runners, joggers and other sports professionals, shin splints or “Periostitis” is a painful and disabling condition. Treating shin splints in my patients, I observe how easy it is for early conditions of shin splints to be relieved following a simple rest program and the magic fingers of a massage therapist; but when allowed to persist, shin splints can take patients to surgery.
Shin splints, much like stress related fracture and the chronic compartment syndrome are a result of overload and overuse of the leg area, coupled with inadequate period of recovery. To be fair to everyone, I must admit that the seriousness of shin splints is easily undermined because of the nature of early shin splints symptoms. In early stages, the pain is there, and then not there, giving the illusion of recovery.
In most cases, shin splints pain is experienced in the beginning of training but disappears during it, and then appears again after training. The athlete suffering from shin splints may experience short periods of pain and long periods of no pain. This can turn around fast if the training continues and no adequate shin splints treatment program is being followed; now the patient may begin to experience longer periods of pain and much shorter periods of no-pain until it is impossible to train.
Shin splints symptoms are a result of the continuous pounding of feet on hard-impact surfaces such as concrete and asphalt; or by running on tiptoes or jumping. Each foot when thrown on the ground emits a shockwave of energy that must be absorbed by the leg movement system. If the leg is already vulnerable due to other conditions such as “flat feet”, “over-pronation” or “high-arch”, then it will fail to provide appropriate cushioning for the impact, aggravating shin splints condition at each step.
Shin Splints Symptoms:
As we know, Shin Splints is the collective name for various lower leg ailments involving both bone and tissue, and ranging from nerve irritations to skin fractures. The following four conditions, however, have been clearly identified by my peers in the medical profession:
- Shin splints in posterior tibial
Affecting the posterior tibial area of the lower leg, this form of shin splints affects professional athletes as well as the hobbyists, beginners and advanced runners, children or adults.
- Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
Formerly called “medial shin splints”; the Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome signifies damage to the medial Tibia as the pain is experienced in the area adjacent to it. In this condition, the bone itself is tender, the medial muscles and tendons are sore, and posterior Tibial tendons and muscles may be inflamed.
- Anterior compartment syndrome
Compartment Syndrome is a painful state of compression of nerves and blood vessels in an enclosed area, in this case, in the anterior of the lower leg, causing sharp pain that does not respond well to pain relief medication or elevation.
- Stress fractures
A stress fracture signifies damage to the bone, and usually produces sharp pain in the affected area of the bone. Upon careful examination, tenderness can be felt one or two inches below the knee.
Shin Splints Recovery
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the early shin splints symptoms related to any of the above four conditions, can be prevented with special shin splints treatment programs. If you have just been affected, the healing process may not take longer than one week of rest coupled with ice treatment and massage therapy. Over the counter pain relief medications may help and I recommend you ask your local pharmacist for more information on this.
For Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, follow the above treatment program but “wait and see” before you resume running or training. My recommendation will be to give yourself an additional 2-4 weeks of rest before going back to full physical activity.
In case of Anterior Compartment Syndrome, the treatment and recovery program must emphasize muscle regeneration and repair as pain will subside when the muscles will respond to exercise and massage. In early stages, complete rest may not be required.
A stress fracture needs a longer period of rest as bones and joints take more time to heal than muscles, ligaments and tendons. You may be looking at four to six weeks for recovery with one month of complete rest.
I am confident that when an athlete, runner or jogger treats early shin splints symptoms with rest and recuperation, a mild exercise, and a massage therapy program recovery follows. However, do not hesitate to contact your health care professional if the pain persists, if you are not sure of the symptoms, or if the treatment and recovery program is not working even after the projected duration.
Shin Splints Prevention
As one of the main causes of shin splints is overuse and overload of the leg area, shin splints prevention must include our ability to say “NO” to activities and durations that make us overload and abuse our lower legs.
Prevent Shin splints by:
- Warming up before training
- Taking sufficient amount of water and liquids daily
- Nutritious foods intake
- Taking periods of rest as needed during training
- Going for complete rest if any body part is showing signs of stress
- Using ice treatment after training
Wellness Tip from Mark Bentz
The biggest requirement for treating Shin Splints, is the ability to rest allowing the body to recuperate from the damage in the lower leg area. Rest and recuperation need a holistic approach to physical health, and include nutrition, exercise and massage therapy.
In terms of nutrition, a crucial factor affecting the health of an athlete, a runner or a sports professional, is the amount of water consumed by them on daily basis.
As we are aware, over 90% of our body consists of water. Alternative medicine places high priority on daily consumption of water. Ten glasses of water per day is recommended as the minimum intake for an individual involved in normal activities, so then, the need for an athlete may be higher than ten.
However, the ancient knowledge base of Ayurveda tells us that ten glasses of water is high level of consumption, and may drain the body of important salts and minerals. The Ayurvedic professionals recommend three to four glasses of water daily.
While there is no “scientific” basis for my recommendations, I tend to look for and usually find a safe middle ground between two extremes. I will recommend five to six glasses of water, and at least two glasses of pure fruit and vegetable juice daily to aid the shin splints treatment program.
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