What are Shin Splints?
‘Shin splints’ is often the generic term used for lower leg pain, but when accurately diagnosed, shin splints are known medically as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). This condition refers to pain in the shins, the front part of the lower legs, and is an inflammation of the connective muscle tissue surrounding the front of the tibia. The pain is commonly brought on by strenuous activity, especially stop-start sports such as tennis and basketball, as well as running on hard or uneven surfaces. Dancers also commonly suffer with shin splints. It is never advisable to run or dance through the pain of shin splints as this can lead to stress fractures of the bone - shin pain is an indication that there is already damage to the muscle and/or bone therefore exercising further can cause more intense pain, longer recovery and more damage to the area. Shin splints are often seen with people who have ‘flat feet’, this overpronation involves excessive rolling inwards which can cause the tibia to twist or the lower muscles to over-stretch. Those people who lean forward, or back too much or those that run with their toes pointing inwards may also be prone to shin splints. Women also have an increased risk of complications from shin splints (stress fractures) especially if their bone density is less, which occurs in osteoporosis.
Treatment and prevention
- REST - the best treatment for shin splints is most definitely rest! Taking part in the sport which caused the shin splint will only cause more damage to the leg. However, gentle activities such as walking, cycling in low gears and swimming may be beneficial, although do check this with your doctor.
- Ice packs on the affected area may help reduce the swelling.
- Pain relief such as ibuprofen or paracetamol may help in the short term but do consult your GP before self-medicating.
- Always use shoes with good support which are shock-absorbing, insoles are vital if you have ‘flat feet’.
- Warm up properly before working out, making sure that you stretch the muscles in your legs.
- Avoid hard surfaces, uneven ground, uphill and downhill running and stop the exercise if you feel any pain in your shins.
How can massage help?
Sports massage can help enormously with the treatment of shin splints by improving the flexibility of the muscle in the lower leg. However, it is important that the therapist avoids the inflamed areas along the tibia (shin bone) which are often painful. A common complaint with shin splints is that they go away only to return once the exercise routine is resumed, this is often because the calf muscles in particular are tight or are in poor condition. Massage is a very effective way of releasing tension in this muscle group and getting rid of any tight knots. Many different strokes and techniques will be used to maximise the benefits of your massage which may include effleurage (stroking), kneading, compression friction, gliding, stretching and using trigger points.
Please do contact me so we can discuss your individual circumstances and tailor a massage programme to suit you.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013