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Junior Sport: Tips and Advice – Overcoming “Shin Splints”

The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the inner or outer side of the shinbone or tibia. It is an injury that is seen frequently in footballers and runners. This condition can be an early warning sign of the development of more serious problems like stress fractures, compartment syndrome or inflammation of the periosteum (sheath covering the tibia), and should be treated in the early stages. Most mild cases of shin splints can be handled with rest and ice; however more serious cases will benefit from physiotherapy treatment.

Shin splints may be caused by the following:

  • Using improper footwear during running
  • Overuse or over-training
  • Running downhill. This puts traction on the shinbone
  • Frequent starting and stopping
  • Weak foot and shin muscles
  • Flat arches

Symptoms of shin splints:

  • Pain over the inner or outer lower half of the leg
  • Pain may be felt at the start of exercise and lessen as the session continues
  • There may be some swelling
  • Pain returns the morning after and may be worse than before
  • Pain when the toes or the foot is bent downwards

How can our physiotherapists help?

  • Perform a computerised analysis of the way you walk to determine the mechanism of injury i.e. whether you over-pronate (foot rolls inward) or over-supinate (foot rolls outward)
  • Manage pain with the use of ice and massage, if this can be tolerated
  • Taping of the shin to relieve pressure on the leg
  • Gentle stretching exercises as soon as they can be tolerated
  • Teach strengthening exercises for weak foot or shin muscles
  • Advise on ways to improve technique in order to avoid stress on the shinbone
  • Recommend sports orthotics to correct over-pronation (if needed)

During the rehabilitation phase, you can usually take part in low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling and water sports. Having shin splints does not have to keep you from your football forever. Following some common sense precautions, our physiotherapist’s advice and using the right type of footwear can put you back in play before long.

Please note: this information should serve as a guide only. When in doubt always seek advice from Southside Phyiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre or  your GP.

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