Shin Splint Treatment

Shin Splint Treatment

Discover comprehensive shin splint treatment options and prevention tips. Learn why Axes Physical Therapy in St. Louis is your best choice for recovery. Book a free injury screening today!

St. Louis Shin Splint Treatment

Shin splint treatment in St. Louis, MO. Every athlete, runner, or fitness enthusiast in St. Louis has heard of them, and many have experienced the nagging pain they bring: shin splints. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting on a new fitness journey, shin splints can stop your daily routine in its tracks and affect your overall quality of life.

Locally owned and operated in St. Louis, MO by seasoned physical therapists, Axes Physical Therapy combines a client-centered approach with evidence-backed treatment modalities to deliver our St. Louis patients the positive outcomes they need to get back to the activities they love. With a team that’s not only highly experienced but also genuinely passionate about getting you back on your feet, Axes understands the unique challenges presented by shin splints. If you’re looking for shin splint treatment in St. Louis, call the Axes location nearest you or contact us online to get started today.

Understanding Shin Splints

The Anatomy of the Shin

Your shins are made up of:

  • The tibia or shinbone, which is the second longest bone in the body. It extends from the knee to the ankle and is responsible for bearing much of the body’s weight during activities.
  • The proximal end which connects the femur (thigh bone) to the knee and allows for bending and extension of the leg
  • The distal end, which forms the medial malleolus, which is a bony part on the inner side of the ankle and forms the ankle joint
  • The interosseous membrane, a strong, flexible sheet of connective tissue that connects the tibia and fibula, which helps distribute forces and stabilizes the lower leg
  • Several muscles in the leg, such as the anterior tibialis, posterior tibialis, and soleus, which attach to the tibia via tendons, and are responsible for various movements of the foot and ankle, including dorsiflexion (toes moving toward your shin), plantarflexion (toes moving away from your shin), and inversion.
  • Arteries which carry blood and nutrients to the area
  • Nerves that allow for sensory perception and muscle control
  • Ligaments which connect the tibia with neighboring bones and joints, provide stability, and limit excessive movement

The shin is responsible for:

  • Supporting the weight of your body as you stand and move
  • Providing stability as you stand and move
  • Connecting the knee to the ankle
  • Connecting various muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Protecting arteries, veins, and nerves

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, also called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, refer to the pain in the front part of your shin stemming from inflammation in muscles, tendons, and the bone tissue itself. Shin splints typically manifest as pain along the front or inner edge of the shinbone, and the pain may be sharp or dull.

Common shin splint symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Mild swelling
  • Pain during activity
  • Pain or discomfort at rest in more severe cases

What Causes Shin Splints?

Our shins undergo significant stresses, both in everyday activities and more intensive exercises. When that stress becomes too much and causes the pain referred to as shin splints, it’s usually due to:

Demand and Overuse

Every step, jump, or stride places demands on the shin. Like any part of the body, the shin has its limits. When subjected to more stress than it can handle, or when not given enough time to recover, it begins to show signs of distress. This overuse can lead to:

  • Micro-tears in the muscle fibers
  • Inflammation of the tendons
  • Stress reactions in the bone

Training Errors and Footwear

Two significant culprits behind overworking the shins include:

  • Improper Training — Suddenly increasing the intensity, frequency, or duration of exercises without adequate preparation can be a recipe for shin splints.
  • Inadequate Footwear — Shoes that don’t provide proper support or have worn-out soles can contribute to shin splints. They can force the foot and leg to compensate in unnatural ways, placing added stress on the shin.

Biomechanical Inefficiencies

Genetic differences or abnormalities in foot arches, gait, or other movements can lead to poor biomechanics, including:

  • Flat feet or overpronation (when the foot rolls inward excessively)
  • High arches which may not absorb shock well
  • Imbalances in muscle strength or flexibility in the legs

External Factors

Factors concerning how you exercise can be at play, including:

  • Training on uneven terrain or slopes
  • Continuous uphill or downhill running without variation
  • Not allowing adequate recovery time between rigorous workouts

Previous Injuries

A history of shin splints can increase the likelihood of future occurrences, as the tissues may not have fully healed or may be more prone to injury.

Shin splints are common sports injuries and frequently occur with beginner runners.

How St. Louis Physical Therapists Diagnose Shin Splints

If you come to any Axes’ location in the St. Louis area for a free injury screening, one of our St. Louis physical and occupational therapists can diagnose shin splints with:

Clinical Examination

  • History Taking — A physical therapist will begin by asking about your exercise habits, the onset of pain, any recent changes in activity, and previous injuries.
  • Physical Examination — This involves palpating (touching) the shin area to locate tenderness, swelling, or any lumps and bumps. The therapist might also check for signs of other potential issues like stress fractures.

Functional Assessment

  • Gait Analysis By observing how you walk and run, the therapist can identify biomechanical issues or imbalances that may be contributing to shin splints.
  • Flexibility and Strength Tests — These tests help determine if muscle imbalances or tightness might be causing or exacerbating the shin pain.

Diagnostic Imaging (if needed)

  • While physical therapists don’t typically perform imaging tests themselves, they may refer you for an X-ray or MRI if they suspect conditions like stress fractures or compartment syndrome. These images can provide a clearer picture of any underlying issues.

Integration of Findings

  • After gathering all the necessary information, the physical therapist will integrate the findings to provide a definitive diagnosis. They’ll use this diagnosis to formulate a tailored treatment plan, backed by science, to address the root causes of the shin splints and facilitate recovery.

Axes’ St. Louis physical therapists possess a holistic approach, combining hands-on examination with functional assessments to diagnose and treat shin splints effectively. Our comprehensive evaluation ensures that the treatment plan is customized to each individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

Conservative Shin Shin Treatment in St. Louis

As shin splints are common and can often go away on their own, most shin splint treatment plans in St. Louis start conservatively:

The R.I.C.E. Method

The R.I.C.E. method is the first line of treatment for many injuries. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation:

  • Rest
    • Allow the inflamed tissues to heal by taking a break from high-impact activities
    • Consider switching to low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling temporarily
  • Ice
    • Apply cold packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, multiple times a day
    • Always use a cloth or towel between the ice and skin to prevent frostbite
  • Compression
    • Wearing an elastic compression bandage or ACE bandage can help reduce swelling
    • Ensure it’s snug but not too tight to restrict blood flow
  • Elevation
    • Prop up the affected leg on pillows or cushions when resting
    • Elevating the leg above heart level can help reduce swelling and promote faster healing

Pain Relief Measures

Common pain relief measures include:

  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications —
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Always follow dosage recommendations and consult with a healthcare provider if unsure.
  • Stretches — Gentle calf and shin stretches can alleviate tension in the muscles surrounding the shinbone.
    • Calf Stretch — Stand facing a wall with hands pressed against it. Step one foot back, keeping it flat on the ground, and bend the front knee. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides.
    • Shin Stretch — While sitting, extend one leg out. Point and flex the foot, feeling a stretch along the front of the shin. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides.

These conservative treatment approaches are first-line interventions in St. Louis shin splint treatment. They’re easy to implement at home and can provide significant relief, especially in the early stages of the condition.

Advanced Shin Splint Treatment Options in St. Louis

When conservative treatments don’t provide sufficient relief, or if shin splints recur frequently, it may be time to consider more advanced interventions and the professional shin splint treatment with a St. Louis physical therapist. These treatments can target the root causes and provide longer-lasting solutions.

Physical Therapy Exercises and Techniques for Shin Splint Treatment

Physical therapy treatment plans for most injuries are based on regaining and developing strength and range of motion, limiting pain, and injury prevention. With shin splint treatment, St. Louis physical therapists can assist you with:

  • Strength Training —
    • Toe Raises — Sitting with feet flat on the ground, lift the toes while keeping heels anchored. This strengthens the anterior tibialis, the muscle at the front of the shin.
    • Calf Raises — Standing on a flat surface, raise onto the balls of the feet, then slowly lower. This strengthens the calf muscles, providing better support to the shin.
  • Flexibility Exercises —
    • Foam Rolling — Using a foam roller on the calf and anterior tibialis can help release tightness.
    • Dynamic Stretches — Leg swings or ankle circles can enhance flexibility and range of motion.
  • Balance and Proprioception Training —
    • Single Leg Stands — Standing on one leg helps improve balance and strengthens stabilizing muscles.
    • Wobble Board Exercises — Using a wobble board or balance pad can challenge and enhance proprioceptive abilities, reducing the risk of recurrent injuries.

Physical therapy offers a comprehensive approach, focusing not just on immediate relief but also on long-term prevention by addressing biomechanical inefficiencies and muscle imbalances.

Modalities like Ultrasound and Electric Stimulation

As shin splints persist or if they’re particularly severe, therapists might employ specific modalities to aid in the healing process. These techniques can optimize recovery and ensure a return to activities with minimal discomfort.

  • Ultrasound Therapy —
    • Deep Tissue Healing — Uses sound waves to stimulate deep tissues, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.
    • Increased Blood Flow — The gentle heat produced by ultrasound increases blood flow to the injured area, accelerating the healing process.
  • Electric Stimulation
    • Pain Relief — E-Stim uses electrical currents to interfere with pain signals sent to the brain, offering immediate relief.
    • Muscle Activation — By stimulating muscle contraction, E-Stim can prevent muscle atrophy due to inactivity from pain.
    • Enhanced Healing — The electrical currents can increase blood circulation, promoting faster tissue repair.

Utilizing these modalities, physical therapists can provide targeted treatments that go beyond traditional methods, addressing the pain’s root causes and facilitating quicker, more effective recovery.

Shin Splint Prevention and Training Tips

Maintaining an active lifestyle while minimizing the risk of shin splints requires a combination of awareness, preparation, and consistency. Incorporating specific strategies and practices can drastically reduce the chances of experiencing this pesky condition, ensuring your fitness journey remains smooth and enjoyable.

Proper Footwear and Orthotics

Choosing the Right Shoes

  • Activity-specific — Opt for shoes specifically designed for your primary activity, ensuring they provide the necessary support and cushioning.
  • Fit and Comfort — A snug fit without being too tight, and adequate cushioning, can make a world of difference.
  • Timely Replacement — Footwear loses its structural integrity over time. Regularly replacing athletic shoes can prevent unnecessary strain on the shins.

Orthotics and Inserts

  • Custom Solutions — For those with unique foot structures or gait abnormalities, custom orthotics can offer specialized support, alleviating stress on the shin.
  • Over-the-counter Options — Pre-made inserts can provide added cushioning or arch support, enhancing the protective qualities of your shoes.

Gradual Training Increases and Incorporating Rest Days

Progressive Training

  • Ease Into It — Especially if you’re new to an activity, start with moderate intensities and durations, gradually ramping up as your body adapts.
  • The 10% Rule As a guideline, avoid increasing the volume or intensity of your training by more than 10% per week to prevent overuse.

Importance of Rest and Recovery

  • Scheduled Downtime — Integrate rest days or lighter activity periods into your training routine, allowing muscles and connective tissues to recover.
  • Body Awareness — Learn to recognize signs of excessive fatigue or strain. If something feels off, it might be time to ease back or take an additional rest day.

Flexibility and Strength as a Foundation

  • Regular Stretching — Incorporate stretching routines targeting the calves, shins, and surrounding muscles. This not only prevents shin splints but also enhances overall leg function.
  • Dynamic Warm-ups Before engaging in intense activities, dynamic stretches like leg swings or ankle circles can prepare the body and reduce injury risks.

By implementing these preventive measures and training tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of shin splints. Such proactive measures not only keep painful conditions at bay but also pave the way for improved performance and a more enjoyable fitness experience.

How A Physical Therapist Can Help Your Shin Splint Treatment in St. Louis

Physical therapists are experts in movement and function, specializing in assessing and treating musculoskeletal problems. When it comes to shin splints, their expertise plays a pivotal role in guiding patients through effective treatment and prevention strategies.

Comprehensive Assessment

  • Gait Analysis — Observing walking and running patterns to identify biomechanical issues that may contribute to shin splints.
  • Muscle Testing — Evaluating strength and flexibility of leg muscles to pinpoint weaknesses or imbalances.
  • Pain Localization — Identifying specific areas of tenderness or inflammation.

Personalized Treatment Plans

  • Targeted Exercises — Prescribing strength and flexibility exercises tailored to individual needs.
  • Manual Physical Therapy Utilizing hands-on treatments like massage, joint mobilization, or soft tissue mobilization to reduce pain and improve function.

Education and Prevention

  • Activity Modification — Advising on changes to training or daily routines to prevent overuse.
  • Footwear Recommendations — Offering guidance on selecting the right shoes or orthotics to support the foot and reduce stress on the shins.
  • Posture and Movement Training — Teaching optimal postures and movements to reduce strain during activities.

Long-term Guidance and Support

  • Progress Monitoring — Regularly assessing improvement and adjusting treatment plans accordingly.
  • Maintenance Programs — Providing exercises and strategies to maintain leg health and prevent future shin splints.
  • Referrals — Connecting patients with other specialists when needed, ensuring comprehensive care.

Incorporating the expertise of a physical therapist into the treatment of shin splints can make a significant difference in recovery outcomes. Their holistic approach ensures that patients receive not only immediate relief but also long-term solutions to keep shin splints at bay.

Call Axes for Your Shin Splint Treatment in St. Louis

Shin splints, though common, can be a significant impediment to one’s active life and daily routines. With over 20 years of expertise, a patient-first approach, and a genuine commitment to getting patients back to the activities they love, Axes Physical Therapy can be your trusted partner in this recovery journey in St. Louis.

Don’t let shin splints keep you on the sidelines. If you’re looking for shin splint treatment in St. Louis, reach out to the seasoned professional physical therapists at Axes Physical Therapy. Let’s work together to chart a path to comprehensive recovery and get you back to doing the things you love. Schedule your consultation today and take the first step towards a pain-free life. Call the location nearest you or request an appointment online now.


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Injuries and pain shouldn’t keep you from moving and doing the things you love.