Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) is a common overuse injury that occurs in the lower leg area. They are characterized by pain and discomfort along the shinbone, the front part of the leg between the knee and ankle.
Shin splints are especially common in athletes who engage in activities that require repetitive movements, such as running and jumping. This condition affects the muscle on the inside of the shin and the tibia, resulting in tenderness, soreness, or pain. This pain can impact training and performance, even leading to a stress reaction or stress fracture.
Individuals experiencing shin splints want relief from the pain and to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place. Fortunately, physical therapy for shin splints can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent further injuries. Keep reading to learn more about shin splints and seven physical therapy exercises that can help you recover and prevent future injuries.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are a common overuse injury that can be caused by various factors, ranging from improper footwear to anatomical factors. Here are some common causes of shin splints:
- Overuse: Shin splints are often caused by overuse, especially in athletes who engage in activities that require repetitive movements such as running, jumping, or dancing. Overuse can cause the muscles and tendons in the lower leg to become inflamed, leading to pain and discomfort.
- Poor footwear: Wearing shoes that do not provide adequate support or cushioning can put extra stress on the muscles and tendons in the lower leg, leading to shin splints.
- Poor biomechanics: If you have poor biomechanics, such as flat feet or overpronation, it can cause the muscles and tendons in the lower leg to work harder than they should, leading to shin splints.
- Training errors: Training errors, such as increasing your mileage or intensity too quickly, can put extra stress on your lower leg muscles and tendons, leading to shin splints.
- Weak muscles: Weakness in the muscles of the lower leg, such as the calf muscles or the muscles in the foot, can increase the risk of developing shin splints.
- Anatomical factors: Certain anatomical factors, such as leg length discrepancies or bowed legs, can put extra stress on the lower leg muscles and tendons, leading to shin splints.
It is important to identify the underlying cause of your shin splints to treat and prevent future injuries effectively. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your shins, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Physical therapy can help treat your shin splints with exercises, stretching techniques, and advanced therapies.
7 Physical Therapy Exercises for Shin Splints
1. Toe Raises
Toe raises are an excellent shin splint exercise to help strengthen the muscles in your calves, which can reduce the strain on your shin muscles. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lift your heels off the ground, raising onto your toes. Hold the position for a few seconds and then lower your heels back to the ground. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 repetitions.
2. Heel Walks
Heel walks are another great exercise for shin splints. To perform this exercise, walk forward on your heels with your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Take small steps and keep your legs straight as you walk. Walk for 20-30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise for three to five sets.
3. Calf Stretching
Calf stretching is an essential exercise for people with shin splints. This exercise helps to reduce tightness in your calf muscles, which can contribute to shin splints. To perform this exercise, stand facing a wall with your hands placed on the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping your heel on the ground. Lean towards the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
4. Ankle Alphabet
The ankle alphabet is a simple exercise that can help to improve ankle mobility, which can reduce the strain on your shin muscles. To perform this exercise, sit on a chair with your legs extended in front of you. Use your ankle to write the letters of the alphabet in the air. Repeat this exercise for 2-3 sets.
5. Resistance Band Exercises
Resistance band exercises can help to strengthen your calf muscles, which can reduce the strain on your shin muscles. To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Wrap a resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends of the band with your hands. Point your toes forward, keeping the band taut. Then, flex your foot back towards your body. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 repetitions on each leg.
6. Shin Raises
Shin raises can help to strengthen your shin muscles, which can reduce the risk of future shin splints. To perform this physical therapy exercise for shin splints, sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Place a rolled-up towel under your ankles. Lift your toes off the ground, keeping your heels on the towel. Hold the position for a few seconds and then lower your toes back to the ground. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 repetitions.
7. Foam Rolling
Foam rolling can help to reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow to the affected area, which can aid in the healing process. To perform this exercise, place a foam roller on the ground and sit in front of it. Place your affected leg on the foam roller and roll it back and forth, applying pressure to the affected area. Repeat this exercise for 1-2 minutes.
Physical Therapy for Shin Splints in Woodbridge, Virginia
Physical therapy is beneficial for treating shin splints, especially for individuals looking for preventative measures. A physical therapist can develop a customized treatment plan that includes stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as other therapies such as massage or red light therapy.
If you’re experiencing shin pain, our professional team at Mid-County Physical Therapy can help. We offer a wide variety of cutting-edge treatment options for sports injuries, post-surgical conditions, orthopedic rehab, and more.
If you’re experiencing shin splints, don’t work through the pain alone. Give us a call today to schedule an assessment. Our team of trained professionals can help you with physical therapy for shin splints in Woodbridge, Virginia.