Shin splints, also known as tibial stress syndrome, are a common problem for runners, football and soccer players, hikers and anyone who engages the muscles around the tibia excessively. Tightness in surrounding muscles such as the gastrocnemius (calf muscles), soleus and flexor digitorum longus can contribute to shin splints when they are unable to absorb the impact of running activities and thus place excessive stress on the tibialis anterior and the connective tissue that joins the muscles to the bone. Shin splints generally present with pain along the inner portion of the lower leg; right next to the tibia. There may also be some accompanying swelling and redness and the area may be quite tender to the touch.
Shin splints may occur well into a runner’s track season, when the muscles have been fairly overused. They may also be caused by running on harder surfaces such as asphault and concrete. Another possible cause is inappropriate footwear for your particular sport or overpronation of the feet while running. When shin splints occur it is important to take time to rest and recuperate and to seek appropriate treatment. Continuing to try and “work through” the pain may eventually lead to stress fractures in the tibia which then take much longer to heal. Current mainstream treatment for shin splints includes rest, ice, NSAIDS (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs), cortisone injections, shock absorbing shoe inserts and physical therapy, with possible physio taping of the muscles around the tibia. Personally, I have found acupuncture to be a best practice treatment for shin splints or tibial stress syndrome. Acupuncture needling and the resultant micro lesions created in the area help to activate the immune system, the cardio vascular system and the endocrine system, essentially jump starting a person’s self healing mechanisms. A recent client of mine, a cross country runner, had significant relief from her pain after a single treatment. In addition to helping relieve the pain of shin splints, acupuncture can help speed the recovery time substantially. Typical recovery time for mild to moderate tibial stress syndrome is around 3 weeks.
Terry M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist
Open Sky Acupuncture, Eugene Oregon