Runners and athletes often get tibial-stress syndrome, also known as shin splints. More than any other athletes, runners are the ones who suffer from shin splints most often. The good news is that there are ways to minimize pain from shin splints and possibly to eliminate them. But first, what exactly are shin splints?
Tibial-stress syndrome is an inflammatory condition of the lower leg tendons, muscles, or outer covering of the tibial bone (periosteum). Athletic activities such as walking, jogging, running, aerobics, and other high impact cardiovascular exercise may cause microscopic damage to these areas. Usually small injuries heal, but sometimes the tissue damage occurs faster than the rate of repair, causing inflammation and the development of tibial-stress syndrome (shin splints). There are two categories of shin splints- anterior shin splints and posterior shin splints. The anterior shin splints cause pain down the front and outer side of the leg; posterior shin splints cause pain down the back and inside of the leg.
How does a runner/athlete get anterior or posterior shin splints? The anterior muscles of the leg are the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, and the extensor hallucis longus; they are responsible for the deceleration of the foot as it is about to touch the ground. Running on too many downhills or increasing running intensity and distance without gradually training for it predisposes a runner to developing anterior shin splints. The posterior muscles of the leg that slow pronation of the subtalar joint are the tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus, and the flexor digitorum longus. Overpronation of the subtalar joint (causing a medial stress on the ankle joint) or prolonged pronation can lead to fatigue, micro-trauma, and inflammation of the posterior leg muscles results in the development of posterior shin splints. There is yet, one more major contributor to the development of shin splints- the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.
The lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) (also referred to as the “core”) is a region that has significant effect(s) on the structures above and below it. The LPHC has 35 muscles that attach to the lumbar spine and/or pelvis. The LPHC is directly associated with the lower extremities and upper extremities of the body. Dysfunction and misalignment of the LHPC may lead to dysfunction of both the lower extremities and upper extremities and vice versa. A misaligned pelvis may not only cause back pain, but may cause in imbalance in the lower extremity and thus cause tibial stress syndrome. Simply, a misaligned pelvis may affect the alignment of the leg causing an increased or decreased “Q-angle” (the angle formed between the thigh bone and shin bone) which in turn may cause over pronation or over supination of the foot which, as mentioned earlier will cause shin splints. What must be noted, is that the knee joint is greatly affected by the Q-angle, and injuries and pain may be greatly reduced by having regular chiropractic adjustments.
The diagrams above clearly illustrate how a misalignment of the LPHC can effect both the upper body as well as the lower body. Chiropractic adjustments are aimed at keeping the body aligned and balanced. When the body is aligned the chances of injury are reduced for the simple fact that when body weight is equally distributed there is balance and even use of the musculoskeletal system. For example, when a runner is in alignment, they are more likely to put equal amounts of weight on each foot and therefore would not stress or use one side of the body more than the other. Every athlete should receive regular chiropractic care to maintain alignment and reduce risk of injury. Runners, should be especially concerned about their alignment as they are the most prone to getting shin splints. So what else should runners do to avoid shin splints?
- Limit the number of hills while running
- Train on even surfaces
- Change sneakers every 300 miles (by this point they lose 40% of their shock absorbency)
- Running mileage should be increased slowly
- Alternate high intensity training with low intensity training
- Runners are advised to cross-train with swimming, biking, using the elliptical machine; this will maintain cardiovascular efficiency while simultaneously giving the weight bearing joints time to heal and to avoid getting shin splints
- Implement a full body stretching program and weight training program with an emphasis on core strengthening
- Have your ankle and knee joint checked by a chiropractor and adjusted
- Utilize electric muscle stimulation and ultrasound to help the healing process after intense training
- Make sure to stretch after training
- And as mentioned, get regular chiropractic care
Chiropractic adjustments will help to keep the body aligned and less prone to injury!
In conclusion, maintaining proper spinal, LHPC alignment, knee, and ankle alignment will help to avoid shin splints and other injuries. Other preventative measures such as the use of electric muscle stimulation, changing sneakers every 300 miles, stretching should also be implemented to prevent shin splints.
(Montclair chiropractor, Dr. Gary Eshanov, works with athletes and treats sports injuries. The doctor works with numerous runners, soccer players, weightlifters, bodybuilders, basketball players, etc. If you are searching for a sports chiropractor in Montclair, we encourage you to read through our testimonials and see why Dr. Eshanov is such a highly recommended chiropractor in Montclair, NJ)