Shin splints, is a broad term for lower leg pain located below the knee either:

  • on the front outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or
  • the inside of the leg (medial shin splints).

A dysfunction of tibialis anterior and posterior are commonly implicated along with tightness of the calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris muscles), is commonly associated with shin splints. Athletes with muscle weakness can lead to muscle fatigue and altered running mechanics placing strain on the tibial muscles. Inflexibility and imbalance of the hamstring and quadriceps muscles can also be a factor.

Anterior Shin Splints – Involves the tibialis anterior muscle.  This muscle:

  • Helps to slow down and stabilize the foot when it hits the ground during running.
  • Lifts the toes upward during the swing phase of foot stride.
  • Stabilizes the foot for the heel to strike the ground.

Tibialis anterior is important during a running stride and compensate during overdoing activities by stretching past their “normal” ability.  The compensation wants to create new room for excessive movement by separating the muscle from the shin bone (tibia), resulting in inflammation and pain.

Cause of Anterior Shin Splints:

  • Common in beginner runners.
  • Runners who increase mileage too fast.
  • Running on hills, uneven surface.
  • One sided pain related to the dominant leg which is over used.
  • Muscle/posture imbalances.
  • Weak hip muscles – such as gluts.
  • Weak ankle.

Symptoms of Anterior Shin Splints:

  • Anterior Shin Splints – pain on the outside of the leg up by the shin bone.
  • Generally, pain can vary from sharp, stabbing, razor like to dull and achy.
  • Pain during and/or after exercise.
  • Pain in the morning related to muscles tighten during the night.

Medial Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome – MTSS) – involves tibialis posterior.  The muscle:

  • A key muscle and tendon for stabilization of the ankle.
  • It is major role in supporting the medial arch of the foot.
  • Tibial tendon locks your ankle in place, providing a strong stabilizing position when the foot pushes off the ground.
  • It inverts your foot (the sole of the foot facing upwards), shifting your weight to the outside of your foot.

Tibialis posterior is a primary stabilizer for the foot arch.  Tibialis posterior tendon is like a strong cable providing tension in the foot to maintain the arch.  A strong foot arch allows the ankle and calves to be stable and increases the power of your stride.  When tibialis posterior becomes overstrained, the shift of the mechanism causes the muscle to be inflamed.

Causes of Medial Shin Splints:

  • Sports involving running and jumping – the most common injury with runners.
  • Dancers
  • Rapid building of mileage with runners.
  • Lack of resting between the activity producing pain.
  • Changes in runner surfaces.
  • Flat footed.
  • Poor stretching technic.
  • Worn out shoes.

Symptoms of MTSS:

  • Pain on the inside of the leg – above the medial malleolus.
  • Pain with activity which disappears after the muscle has warmed up. Pain returns after the activity is stopped.

Overall shin splints are:

  • Shin splints are a bit of a mystery.
  • What is agreed upon, in both conditions – micro tears are occurring in the tissue resulting inflammation.
  • If untreated, the body will build bone in response to the inflammation – resulting in lumps and bumps in the area of pain.

I approach treating your leg pain to your presentation, which involves:

  • Analyzing your posture – how are muscle imbalances playing into your shin splints?
  • Discussing potential lifestyle dynamics impacting the effected the leg.
  • Muscle testing the muscles for weakness and pain.
  • Targeting effected muscles, releasing motor points, trigger points and relaxing the fascia.

Providing exercises to continue treatment success between acupuncture treatments.

Call (914) 572-5137 today or click here to schedule an appointment & learn more about how we can help you.