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‘Shin splints’ is an umbrella term for a number of conditions causing pain down the front of your shin, which is usually aggravated by exercise and tender to touch: compartment syndrome, stress fractures, tibial stress syndrome and periostitis. It is commonly associated with a change in running technique, footwear, sudden changes in training programme or activity levels, and poor alignment or biomechanics.
It is important to get an expert assessment to find out the cause of your shin splints as the treatment will vary slightly. Most commonly, we see tibial stress syndrome, which is important to treat early as, left alone, it can develop into more severe problems such as stress fractures or compartment syndrome, which may end up needing surgical intervention if untreated.
However, the majority of cases are less severe, with physiotherapy and osteopathy enabling full recovery. This is achieved by improving how the muscles and bones are being loaded, achieved by making lower limb biomechanics better and adjusting running technique. We succeed in this by mobilizing stiff joints, releasing tight muscles with massage and acupuncture, taping, correcting footwear, providing insoles, strengthening weak muscles and retraining movement patterns. In some cases it may be necessary to reduce loading in the short term by resting from impact activity – running in a pool is really useful to keep up training in this period, if a competition is imminent.
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