If you are a runner or participate in a sport that involves a lot of running, you are at a particularly high risk for experiencing shin splints. This is because shin splints are the most common running-related injury. However, it’s not exclusive to runners – this injury is also particularly common among dancers and ice skaters.
Shin splints are not a particularly concerning injury in the long-term, but can lead to a lot of pain that will affect your physical performance in sports and in day-to-day life. People experiencing shin splints will find that their recovery is faster and more efficient if they undergo physical therapy.
What is a Shin Splint?
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), are a type of shin pain that occurs with overuse. This pain usually covers about two-thirds of your shinbone that typically get worse when you perform physical activities like running or jumping.
What do Shin Splints Feel Like?
Shin splints usually feel like a widespread pain running along the inner part of your shin. This pain worsens when you’re physically active.
What Causes Shin Splints?
The exact mechanism of shin splints is not fully understood, but research suggests it’s often caused by putting too much strain on your shin bone or from impact activity and/or excessive muscle pulling on the shin bone.
Exercise and physical activity causes your shin bones to experience stress from the impact and muscle contractions that pull on them. Normally, these bones get stronger and denser as they adapt to this stress.
Shin splints tend to occur when you push your body too hard and it can’t keep up with the extra stress, basically doing too much too quickly. It’s important to rule out other similar conditions like stress fractures and exertional compartment syndrome with the help of a healthcare professional.
How to Treat Shin Splints
The aim of physical rehabilitation is to choose an exercise level that helps your shin and leg muscles get stronger and adapt without causing harm. This might mean reducing your current physical activity level. When doing rehab exercises, try to keep the pain at a 2 out of 10 or lower.
If your running cadence (steps per minute) are less than 150, it may be suggested to increase it to somewhere between 160 and 180 steps per minute.
How Long Do Shin Splints Last?
Studies have found that it can take anywhere from three months or more on average for athletes experiencing shin splints to get back to pain-free sports activities. However, if you’ve had lingering symptoms for a while before getting treatment, it might even take up to a year to fully recover.
Shin Splint Stretches
Early Stage: Ankle 4 Way
This exercise is great for the beginning stages of recovering from shin splints. It aims to make the muscles around your shin and ankle stronger and help your ankle handle different movements. Do each exercise 10 times, three times a day.
When you do these movements, focus on moving your foot at the ankle, not by turning your leg. You’ll need a light resistance band and something stable to attach it to that won’t move.
Here’s how to perform the Ankle 4 Way exercise:
1. Sit facing the band.
2. Put the band over the top of your foot so it’s a little tight.
3. Lift your toes toward your face and then slowly lower them.
4. Turn your body slightly, about a quarter turn, and wrap the band around the ball of your foot. Pull your foot inward against the band’s resistance.
5. Make a full 180-degree turn with your body. Again, loop the band around the ball of your foot and pull your foot outward against the resistance.
6. Hold the band with both hands and put it around the ball of your foot. Push your foot down against the band’s resistance.
Late Stage: Single Leg Pogos
- Set a metronome to 150 bpm (you can find a free app online).
- Stand on one leg and hop up and down to the beat of the metronome.
- Try to jump off the ground as quickly as you can.
What Patients Are Saying
I had a great experience with HSPT! They helped me understand my injuries...of which there were many! They helped me rehab my ankle and recover from a horseback riding fall at the same time. They made sure that I received the right care through their network to confirm the extent of my injury so they could get to work properly treating me and getting me back to doing the things I love. You're in good hands with HSPT!