Shin Splints

Having seen some interesting theories on Shin Splints and what to do about them in recent days, I thought I might write a little about them.

There are actually 3 different conditions which are known as shin splints, so its quite useful to be able to differentiate between them. I’ll start scary and get less so as we go through.

The first and most scary is stress fracture of the tibia (main weight bearing bone in the leg below the knee). If this happens, get it looked at asap. Stop running. Let it heal. There really isnt much that massage can do for this in the acute phase- but in rebalancing and for remedial work- it may well be a useful modality to be using.

The second is almost as scary- its compartment syndrome. Basically the muscle on the front of your tibia (tibialis anterior) which is partially responsible for lifting your toe as you swing forward, and also helps prevent the collapse of the main arch in your foot) has got too big, there is too much blood in the muscle and it is the fact that it is swollen means that the pressure make it hurt. In this case there really isn’t much massage can do, because massage is about getting blood flowing. The last thing you want is more blood going to an already engorged muscle that is causing you pain. You need to see a doctor. Its a bad thing.

Thankfully, these 2 are the least common forms of Shin Splints.
The most common by far is general pain in the Tibialis anterior – (again, its the muscle that helps lift your toe up as you swing your leg forward in the gait cycle). It could be because you have recently changed your shoes and are wearing heavier footwear – making the muscle work harder, it could be that you are attempting to run in flip-flops – (a BAD idea), it could also be an issue with your gait, that your arch is collapsing and this is causing undue elongation of the Tibialis Anterior, all of which are causing micro-tears in the muscle, slowly, over time, it gets more and more painful until you can barely run down the drive and back without the pain coming on.

An aside to this is that overtraining causes this syndrome as well – too much running and not enough rest means that the microtears in the muscle, which you induce by doing exercise in order to make the muscle better and more efficient, don’t have the time to repair and make the muscle more efficient… they break, they break more, and more until eventually something has to give – and generally it’s the pain that tells you that you’ve gone too far. REST is AS IMPORTANT as exercise.

Anyhow, back to treatment.
Ice, Compression and Elevation. And, most importantly of all, Rest. The problem being, that if you haven’t rested as much as you should have done while training, you will need to compound that time now in order to relieve your pain. Not running when you are a runner is a bummer, and makes you restless and in some cases depressed. However, thinking that it feels a little better, and going out for a run is the WORST possible thing you can do. You’ll be ok, then it will hurt, and then you’ll be back to square 1 again, and it will take even longer to heal.

Massage – helping break down scar tissue in the muscle, assisting with the healing process, giving ideas as to remedial exercises that you can do, along with icing the affected areas for 15mins twice a day – that is what is going to bring you back from shin splints as fast as possible.

There are also a couple of things you can do in terms of taping techniques which will help reduce the pain. This can be useful if you HAVE to finish a race, or HAVE to run away from a tiger, however, it is only a stop gap, and should not be used as a replacement for rest etc. As such, I won’t go into details here. 

If your car was broken, what would you do? Take it to a garage and pay money to get it sorted?
If your body is broken what do you do? Go online and look for answers, or go and get it looked and and healed properly?

You can buy another car.
You can’t buy another body.
If its broke, see a pro and get it fixed!


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