If you consider yourself a runner, you’ve probably at least heard of shin splints. If you’re an avid runner that’s been doing so regularly for most of your life, then there’s a strong chance that you’re also familiar with them on a personal basis. But what exactly are shin splints and what are the best ways to address them? “Shin splints” is actually a general term to describe pain felt along the inside or front edges of the shin, which results from damage to one of the tendons in this area. There are generally two types of shin splints—anterior and posterior—with posterior shin splints being less common and involving the posterior tibial tendon. These New York City running injuries can be a nuisance to your exercise regimen, but physical therapy and some basic training changes are usually all that’s needed to address them.
The posterior tibial tendon is one of the most important tendons of the leg, and it serves as one of the major supporting structures of the foot. This tendon attaches the calf muscles to the bones of the inside of the foot, and it holds up the arch of each foot and provides support to the feet while walking, running and during just about any other weight-bearing activity. It’s also particularly important to runners, as it is prominently used when plantar flexing the ankle (pointing the toes downward) and inverting the ankle (rolling it inward).
Injury to the posterior tibial tendon can occur as a single incidence or as gradual damage over the course of time. An acute, one-time injury, such as a severe fall can tear the tendon on the spot or cause it to become inflamed. More commonly, the tendon becomes damaged from repeating the same activities over and over without enough time to recover, which makes it an overuse injury. Increasing your training load too quickly, regularly running or training on hard or angled surfaces, and wearing improper footwear like shoes with low arches all increase the chances of damaging the posterior tibial tendon. Naturally, runners have the highest risk here, but people with flat feet or high arches are also at an elevated risk.
Repeated damage to this tendon eventually leads to inflammation, and the result is a condition called posterior tibial tendinitis, which may also be referred to as posterior shin splints. The primary symptom of these shin splints is a dull, aching pain along the inside rear of the shin, which may be located on either side of the bone or in the muscle.
This pain tends to arise during activities when pushing off the foot, and the area may also be painful to the touch.
What we recommend for these New York City running injuries
Posterior shin splints can really slow you down and might even force you to stop running or exercising for an extended period of time, but there are actually some simple solutions to address this problem and help you overcome it in no time. Our physical therapists recommend the following for these New York City running injuries:
- Always wear properly-fitting shoes, especially while running or working out; talk to our physical therapists or go to a specialty shoe store to have your gait analyzed, which will help you determine which shoes are best
- Slowly and gradually build your fitness level rather than making extreme changes at any time
- For the avid runners, try integrating some cross-training into your exercise routine like swimming or biking to reduce pressure on your legs
- If shin splints continue to be an issue, our treatment programs typically consist of:
- Static stretching exercises for the two calf muscles
- Eccentric and concentric strengthening exercises for the calf and possibly the ankle, lower core and gluteal muscles as well
- Deep tissue massage and ultrasound to address pain in the shin
For most patients, shin splints will improve after making these changes to your training routine, but for stubborn cases and those that have been going on for a while, a course of physical therapy may be necessary to address the problem. So if you’re dealing with long-term shin splints or any other lingering pain that’s been bothering you, Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy is here to help. Call us at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on shin splints.