Shin Splints or also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is one of the most common exercise-related problems that is frequently connected to athletes especially runners and jumping-related sports. this condition is characterized by pain and tenderness along the tibia, the large bone in the lower legs. Patients who experience Shin Splint would describe the pain as sharp or dull and can occur in one or both legs. There’s also mild swelling in the area in some cases. The pain with shin splints is felt by the patient in the middle or towards the bottom of the shin and is usually felt the most during activity, such as running or jumping, and decreases when resting.
The people who are most susceptible to this condition are those who engage in high-impact activities such as running, jumping, and dancing. Some factors also include a flat arch, excessive motion in the hip, a high body mass index, and a previous running or jumping injury.
On a positive note, Physical Therapy can prevent and treat Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), there are also other treatments but most patients would choose Physical Therapy for its safe and effective management. Your therapist may work on some of the muscles involved and also have you stretch and or foam/roll. During your initial exam, your Physical Therapists will identify specific areas of weakness. As a runner, it is important to have a strong core, hips, quads, and foot muscles.
There are several techniques in Physical Therapy that can be used to treat MTSS. Since Shin Splints is an overuse type of injury, the goal of the therapy will include not aggravating the condition. Here are some common stretching exercises that can be done to manage Shin Splints.
Standing Calf Stretch
Stand about three feet from a wall and put your right foot behind you ensuring your toes are facing forward.
Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward with your right knee straight.
Rotating the toes in and out slightly will target the medial and lateral parts of this muscle separately.
Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds.
Leaning Heel-Back Calf Stretch:
Stand upright and lean against a wall.
Place one foot as far from the wall as is comfortable and make sure that both toes are facing forward and your heel is on the ground.
Keep your back leg straight and lean towards the wall. Make sure the toes of your back leg are facing forward.
Letting your toes point to one side will cause this stretch to put uneven tension on the calf muscles.
Over an extended period of time, this could lead to a muscle imbalance.
Lie down on your side on an exercise mat with legs extended and hips in a parallel line, one on top of the other.
Bend your lower arm underneath your head, allow the full weight of your head to rest on your forearm so it’s in line with your vertebrae.
Relax your feet into a neutral position, perpendicular to your legs.
Exhale while raising your upper leg to just above your hip joint. When you feel your hips and back start to tense, stop and hold the position for one to two seconds.
Inhale and slowly lower your leg to its starting position, keeping it straight and stacked directly above the lower leg.
Repeat for a total set of 10 raises. Flip over to your opposite side and repeat the process with your other leg.
The physical therapist may also use a Kinesiotaping technique to provide some arch support as well as manual techniques such as soft tissue massage to help the shin muscles heal. Dry needling can be used to relieve trigger points that might be present with shin splints. Lastly, taking some rest time may be needed. Your Physical Therapist might also advise you to ice the affected area for about 10 minutes a few times each day to decrease the pain.