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  • Writer's pictureDr. Keith McGahey

Can A Chiropractor Help With Shin Splints?

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

I've been a practicing Chiropractor in Bellevue, WA for over 25 years. In that time I've treated a lot of nagging soft tissue injuries. And I can tell you, shin splints responds very well to Chiropractic care, especially when combined with advanced soft tissue treatment techniques like Graston Technique, and Active Release. As a prior shin splints sufferer, I can tell you these techniques work. If you've been experiencing nagging shin pain, chances are they can help you too. Schedule an appointment today for shin splints treatment, or read on for more information.

Shin Splints Are A Pain In The... Shin

A runner with shin splints holding leg due to shin pain

If you’re feeling achy pain along your shin bones, particularly when you walk or run, you may have shin splints. Shin splints are common in runners and athletes, but just about anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet is at risk. And if they become chronic, shin splints can lead to stress fractures in the bone. Don't let it get to that point. Take care of your shins!

What Are Shin Splints?

Also called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, shin splints refers to a painful injury involving the muscles that line your shin bones. These muscles help to move your feet and ankles when you stand, walk and run. Shin splints occur when these muscles become injured, often from overuse. The wear and tear on these muscles causes tiny tears to form where they attach to your shin bones. The result is inflammation and pain in your shins, usually on the front or inside.

If left untreated, shin splints will likely worsen, leading to scar tissue formation around these tears. Scar tissue is stiff and weak, and injures more easily than healthy muscle tissue. Continued activity results in more tiny tears, more scar tissue, and more pain. If enough damage occurs from repeated use, stress fractures can occur. That can mean a lot of time away from activity during the healing process. No one wants that. Early treatment = better results.

Diagram of causes and symptoms of shin splints

What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints are overuse injuries caused by repetitive stress placed on the muscles, bones and joints of the lower leg. That stress can come about for a number of reasons, the most common found below:

1. Shin Splints From 'Too Much, Too Soon'

Shin splints can be a problem if you increase your level of activity too quickly. This is especially true for runners. If you’re new to running, or starting a new activity, try to increase your training slowly. A simple guideline – don’t increase by more than 10% per week. And shut it down if you start to feel pain.

2. Poor Mechanics (Not The Car Kind)

Mechanics refers to the way our bodies move. Good mechanics are important in preventing injury. Stiff muscles and joints make it difficult to move freely, or to have good mechanics. Your body is forced to compensate, and that can lead to injuries like shin splints. Especially if you're active. Excessive pronation when running is a great example. This means that your foot rolls too far to the inside when you walk or run, and is a common cause of shin splints.

3. Those Old Shoes... And Other Things

First off, if you’re going to exercise make sure you have good gear. You don’t have to buy the ‘Mercedes’ of shoes, but get something good. An injury is way more expensive than a pair of shoes. Here’s a great article from the New York Times about Choosing the Right Running Shoes (even if you’re not a runner).

Also, change up your training. Avoid running hills every day, and try to avoid hard surfaces if you can. Go to a grassy park, or look for a local trail running club. Softer, uneven surfaces like wood chips can help challenge and strengthen your feet and legs. They also causes a lot less pounding on your body than running on pavement.

What Are The Symptoms Of Shin Splints?

The most comon symptom is shin pain along the inside or front edge of the bone. People often report shin pain when waking or running. In the early stages the pain can be fairly mild, and go away after activity. But with continued use, that pain can become more intense, and take longer to go away. Shin splints may also make the edges of your shins very tender to the touch.

Eventually your shins may ache or throb. And your pain may stick around, even when you’re not active. With poor healing, or without proper treatment, the muscles in your calf can become weak. When that happens, your shin bones start to absorb the shock your muscles used to. And that can lead to more serious injury, like stress fractures in your shin bones. This is definitely not type of injury you want to ‘run through’.

Shine Splints Treatment That Works

Most treatments for shin splints are fairly passive, like creams, pain relievers, ice, massage, stretching and time away from activity. And while these may give some relief of pain, they don’t address the most important issues:

  1. The actual injury – inflammation and scar tissue in the soft tissues around the shin.

  2. The cause of the injury – over pronation, poor mechanics, tight muscles and joints in your hips, legs, ankles/feet, etc.

For a long-term fix, you need to break up scar tissue and adhesions in the muscles around the shin. Advanced soft tissue therapies like Active Release, and Graston Technique can do just that. Chiropractic can improve joint alignment and mechanics, making treatment, and your recovery, that much more effective.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you've been suffering from shin splints, relief may be just around the corner. Schedule an appointment and let's get to the bottom of your shin pain. Then we'll create a treatment plan to help get you back on your feet, without pain, as quickly as possible.

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