Shin Splints and How to Get Rid of Them
by Dr. Aaron Vela
What is a shin splint? To fully understand how to get rid of shin splints, we need to understand a little bit of anatomy.
The tibia is your shin bone. On the outside of bone is an important layer of tissue called the periosteum which is involved in healing bone and acting as an anchor for ligaments and tendons to attach. The periosteum also has a lot of nerve endings that feel pain. Ligaments are connections from bone to bone, while tendons are connections from muscle to bone. There are several muscles that attach to the shin bone. In the case of shin splints, usually the culprits are either the tibialis anterior muscle (if the pain is more on the front-outside of the shin) or the soleus muscle (if the pain is more on the front-inside of the shin).
Shin splints are caused when the tendons from these muscles repetitively pull on the periosteum, creating inflammation and irritation to this very nerve dense tissue, creating signals of pain. The reason why the tendons irritate the periosteum usually has to do with a combination of things, such as collapse of the arches of the foot, causing foot pronation or flat-footedness on the inside arch of the bottom of the foot, and/or tight muscles creating more tension on the periosteum. Weak muscles in the area may also make the tight muscle work even harder to pick up the slack, especially when we are running.
Stretching the muscle on the front of the shin and muscles in the calves are super important in getting rid of shin splints. Check out our YouTube video on how to stretch these muscles. It’s also important that you have the correct support for your feet, including the right running shoes and orthotics if your feet are flat (check out the YouTube video below about Dr. Lou’s favorite shoes). Lastly, muscle strengthening in the front of the shin and the calves will help reduce the likelihood that the shin splints will return. Resistance bands are great for this as you can wrap the band around the bottom of your foot and point the toe downward to strengthen the calves and also wrap the band around the top of the foot (and the other end around a table or stable post) and point the toe upwards to strengthen the front of the shin.
If you have questions or concerns about your shin splints, please let us know, and we will answer your question anonymously in the form of a blog or video!