Detecting and treating shin splints

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While those who often engage in running are providing themselves with cardiovascular advantages that will last a lifetime, there are certainly various injury risks that come with staying active. One of the more common injuries runners can sustain is shin splints, a term that refers to pain occurring in the tibia, or the large bone located in your lower leg. Athletes who are frequently experiencing shin splints need to be aware of the some of the alternative treatments available to alleviate painful symptoms. Massage therapy has been associated with one of the growing resources for addressing shin splints, and understanding how specific techniques can ease discomfort can help keep you on your feet rather than off them. Here are some tips in regard to accurately detecting signs of shin splints, as well as ways to treat the pain, including massage therapy:

Signs of shin splints

According to the Mayo Clinic, shin splints are more commonly experienced in those who are generally active and mobile, especially runners or dancers. Sometimes, shin splints can be directly correlated to an athlete who has recently switched up his or her training regimen, and that transition in pressure and agility can begin to take a toll on already stressed out tissue and joints within the lower body. The most common indications that someone is experiencing shin splints are general tenderness, pain or swelling accumulating within the lower part of the leg. Sometimes, the pain will only occur during physical activity, but in more severe cases, discomfort will continue to be experienced after exercising.

Specific causes

As the National Institutes of Health stresses, shin splints are predominantly a result of over exercising, but there are specific types of training that may exacerbate the condition. If part of your running route features uphill jogs, you might be putting yourself at risk for shin splints, as that added pressure only puts more stress upon the lower leg bones and tendons. Any time you begin to up the intensity or duration of an agility workout, you’re also increasing the risk of shin splints, and exercises that require frequent stopping and starting are also known to produce symptoms, especially when performed on hard surfaces. Sometimes, the type of footwear you train in can have a direct effect on shin splints, so always make sure your running shoes possess the proper shock absorption to take some of the pressure off of your lower leg muscles and tendons.

Treating shin splints

The good thing about shin splints is that the typical protocol when it comes to treating them is simply resting and icing up. Simply taking a load off, applying ice packs in 15-minute cycles and taking a few over-the-counter medications is generally effective for alleviating pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, if shin splints are beginning to become more apparent during your workout, it may be time to begin considering another form of exercise to adjust to the condition. Lower-impact activities such as cycling or swimming have been noted to be beneficial sources of workouts for people dealing with more severe cases of shin splints. Rushing your body back into your exercise routine while coping with shin splints will most likely only aggravate pain, so be sure you’re fully healed before getting back into your physical activity routine.

Massage therapy

As massage therapy has been noted to help alleviate a variety of ailments, massages have also been known to help relieve discomfort for those experiencing shin splints. The key to using a therapeutic rubdown to assist in easing pain within the lower legs is by gently manipulating the tibialis anterior muscle, a large muscle the rests on the front of the shin. If you’re going to see a massage specialist, a firm, yet tender traditional Swedish massage has been pointed out by PainScience.com as a suitable source for decreasing discomfort within the tibialis anterior muscle in particular. However, if you’re experiencing more severe shin splints, then massaging the area may potentially exacerbate the condition. Always converse with your physician in regard to whether massage therapy may or may not be a sufficient alternative treatment option.

Booking an appointment with a massage therapist isn’t necessary to provide yourself with much needed comfort. Self massage in particular has been utilized as a potential source for treating shin splints. You can either provide yourself with a gentle rubdown or use a personal massager to roll over your shins and help loosen out the sore tendons. When you’re ready to get back into the swing of things in terms of physical activity, it’s important to not only monitor how pain in the shins decreases or not, but you should also make sure you’re utilizing proper workout equipment techniques, such as wearing shock absorbent shoes or practicing more low-impact activities such as swimming or cycling.

Jill Lohmann is a Director of Operations for Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers and a certified physical therapist. Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers is a physical therapist owned and operated rehabilitation company with a network of 170 outpatient rehabilitation centers located throughout the Midwest, Arizona and Georgia.

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