Shin splints are the common term for injuries to the front of the lower leg (also known as the anterior compartment). While the exact injury is not known, shin splints seem to result from injury to the anterior tibialis muscle and adjacent tissues in the front of the outer leg.

Shin splints represent one member of a group of injuries called “overuse injuries.”Shin splints occur most commonly in runners or aggressive walkers.

What are the symptoms of shin splints? 

Shin splints cause pain in the front of the shin below the knee. The pain of shin splints is characteristically located on the outer edge of the mid region of the leg next to the shin bone (the tibia). An area of discomfort measuring 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) in length is frequently present. Pain is often noted at the early portion of the workout, then lessens only to reappear near the end of the training session. Shin splint discomfort is often described as dull at first. However, with repeated aggravation, the pain can become so extreme as to cause the athlete to stop workouts altogether and ankle joint movement can become restricted.

What causes shin splints? 

A primary aggravant causing shin splints is a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a workout schedule, such as embarking on a new fitness regime or increasing the intensity of your exercise. This increase in muscle work can be associated with inflammation of the shin muscles, those muscles used in lifting the foot (dorsiflexion). Such a situation can be aggravated by a tendency to pronate the foot (rolling the foot excessively inward onto the arch).

Similarly, a tight achilles tendon or weak ankle muscles are also often implicated in the development of shin splints. These factors are assessed and treated during your full assessment with our Physiotherapists.

How are shin splints diagnosed? 

Your Physiotherapist will make a diagnosis based on a structured clinical assessment . It depends upon a careful review of your medical/lifestyle  history and a focused physical exam (an exam focused on the shins and legs where local tenderness is noted). They will also look at your biomechanics and gait (walking) pattern to understand the reason for your problem.

In some situations specifc radiological tests, such as x-rays, bone scans or MRI scans, can be helpful to exclude stress fracture and other underlying injury of the tibia bone. These will help your Physiotherapist to guide you back to activity in the safest and quickest way.

Treatment

Where possible, we try to utilise a  “relative rest”  approach and aim to keep people as active as possible whilst avoiding any aggravation of the problem. We prefer a ‘hands-on’ approach where suitable. Sometimes a set period of complete rest is required to prevent further damage and allow healing to take place.

Our approach often includes;

  • Specific exercise programmes to allow maintenance of cardiovascular fitness, whilst your injury is treated and heals.
  • Specific massage and soft tissue treatments.
  • Footwear and biomechanics analysis.
  • Stretching techniques.
  • Graded strengthening exercise in our Physio-Gym to rehabilitate the injury and improve your fitness. 
  • Electrotherapy treatments to assist in healing, such as Ultrasound.
  • Hot and cold therapy.
  • Referral to a recommended Podiatrist for provision of orthotic insoles.

This approach is tailored to your specific problem and individual needs and your Physiotherapist will work with you through to full recovery.

A sprained ankle is the most common ankle injury we come across. An ankle sprain refers to soft tissue damage to the ligaments around the ankle joint. Typically this ankle ligament damage is characterised by ankle pain and a swollen ankle. The lateral (on the outside of the leg) ligaments are the most commonly injured ligaments due to their relatively thin size and anatomy which make them prone to injury from twisting.

A severe sprained ankle may need x-ray or review by an orthopaedic doctor although physiotherapy treatment is very effective for most sprained ankles where there is no bone injury. In the early stages it is important the follow the PRICE protocol – protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Give us a call at David Roberts Physio to make sure you do the best thing for your particular injury. Correct, early treatment will ensure the best outcomes and help prevent recurrence.

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Monday, 19 Jan 2015

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