Shin Splints is a non-diagnostic term used to describe pain in the front of the leg (along the tibia) usually attributed to running. The first thing, as with any condition, is to properly diagnose the problem. Pain in the front of the leg could be due to several problems such as a stress fracture, compartment syndrome, nerve pain from a problem in the lumbar spine (low back), or a tearing away of the muscles in the front of the leg from the bone (medial tibial stress syndrome).
The doctor should palpate (touch) all up and down the tibia (shin bone) both on the inside and outside to check for tender areas. Sometimes X-rays or a bone scan are necessary to rule out a fracture. If the area is very hot and red, compartment syndrome must be ruled out with special tests. If the area is not tender and there is pain, numbness or tingling, nerve pain due to problems in the low back must be ruled out.
Assuming these other problems are ruled out, most commonly the pain in the front of the leg is due to a microscopic tearing away of the muscles in the front of the leg from the tibia. Scar tissue (which is full of tiny nerve endings and not as elastic as regular muscle) forms. Any pounding, stretching or pressure to the area causes pain.
Treatment must include tecniques like Active Release Techniques® and Graston Technique to break up the scar tissue in Then, proper stretching of the area - front of the leg and the gastrocnemius and soleus (calf).
Important and often neglected are strengthening exercises for the front leg muscles. These can be done by sitting on a bench with ankle and a portion of the leg off the bench. Place a dumb-bell between your feet and pull the dumb-bell up and down. Do at least 3 sets of 15 reps every other day. A device called the D.A.R.D. has been developed which is designed for this exercise.
Also, ice the area immediately after training with ice massage for 5 minutes or an ice pack for 15 minutes.
If the proper diagnosis if made, proper soft tissue work done, proper stretching and strengthening performed, shin splints should be resolved and not return. Perform the stretching daily and strengthening twice per week once the problem is resolved.
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