[Image source: Runner's World]
This week on Balls 'n' All, I talk shin splits - what causes them, where they occur, what it means to get a true shin splint and what you can do to relieve the pain caused by shin splits (or by the muscle tightness we commonly refer to as shin splints).
Jackson - Moving on to more your expertise, we’re going to talk about shin splints this morning. And it’s a very common injury, it’s something that normally late in the season, when you see people not training because of the bad weather or the hot weather, it’s the first little excuse. It’s like the Darwin version of the hamstring. ‘Oh I think I’ve got shin splints,’ they might say. But can you tell us what shin splints are? Before you go into detail, what are shin splints Jacob?
Jacob - So what people are experiencing as shin splints is often not actually shin splints as they really are. Shin splints as they really are, are actually the shin splintering. So the actual shin bone, which has 2 bones in there, I’ll go into a little bit of detail: tibia and fibula. And it’s usually the tibia, the bigger one right at the front which you can feel if you run your fingers down your shin. That’s the one which is actually splintering, so the bone is actually splintering. And the reason for that, we’ll go into a bit more detail but it could be any number of reasons. What most people have when they get shin splints is just tightness of the muscles around that bone. But the way that the shin actually splinters is often, not only, it can be from impact. But it’s often from the muscles, so the foot rolling over, so the arch sort of collapsing. Their foot rolling over, their ankle then rotating and then the shin being pulled inwards. And the muscles on the inside of the shin pulling down and away from the bone. And so it can actually, the muscle can actually tear off the bone. Either, you know, a lot or just a little bit. Or the muscle can stay attached to the bone but as a result of pulling can splinter the shin.
Jackson - Yeah exactly and it’s a injury that’s very common especially in teenagers as well. I had sore shins, I don’t know whether you’d call it the official diagnosis of shin splints after what you told me there. But some of the recovery methods was a few physios used to smash the front of my shins with either like those cold, when you get a frozen ice cup and they put the ice on it and they smash down. Or they’d just use their thumbs to dig in and it was the most painful thing you’d ever go through but please tell me that that is one of the ways that you get over it. Because it would have been a big waste of time and a waste of pain if it wasn’t.
Jacob - No, it’s definitely the best way to get rid of it.
Jackson - Yes!
Jacob - So I really like ice massage, which is what you’re referring to. So you fill up a polystyrene cup about 3 quarters full of water, freeze it overnight and then get a bunch of them if you’ve got shin splints and then run them up and down the shin. And particularly up the inside of the shin bone. And so you peel back the top of the polystyrene cup and expose the top of the ice and typically in Darwin that ice will last about 15-20 mins, which is the ideal time to be icing something. So we’re lucky up here that it works like that, so you’d want to be sitting on a towel maybe because that’s all going to melt that ice. And you run it up and down the shin bone as hard as you can handle. The other way to do it is to get someone to massage it and typically physios will go pretty tough because they’re trying to break up the muscle. So often it’s the muscle there which there’s a few muscles in that area, but the main muscle which needs to be broken up is the soleus. So that’s the one which sits deeper inside your calf muscle, and it sits in, right in behind the bone. And that’s often the one that physios or someone who’s massaging is trying to break up.
Jackson - So another thing that I did to get over my shin splints injury was excessively stretch my calf muscles. So was that something, because I wasn’t told by the physio that that’s what you needed to be doing but I felt that it, my lower leg was really loosened up and it definitely helped. So is that right, would you recommend stretching your calf muscles for those suffering from shin splints?
Jacob - Yeah definitely. So secondary to the ice massage and the regular massage is you need to stretch at the same time. And so the best way to stretch your calf in my opinion is to hang your heel over a step. So if you’ve got a step in your house, just hang your heel down. So put the ball of your foot or your toes on the edge of the step and hang your heel down so your leg is straight. If you’re hanging with a straight leg so your knee is straight, you’re gonna hit more the back of the calf muscle and that’s called the gastrocnemius. The other muscle which you really need to get into for shin splints, like I said earlier, is the soleus. And to get that you need to bend your knee, so if you bend your knee a little bit and then you hang your heel over a step then you’re going to get in deeper. And that’s the muscle which you really need to lengthen and to stretch. So you can do that in different ways, you can hang your heel straight, you can also hang your heel on an angle inside and an angle outside to try and get it from all different angles.
Jackson - I suppose it depends on the severity of the injury but is it one of those things that you can manage? So if you’re a footballer and you’re in charge of an AFL list and your star player heading into the finals has shin splints is it something that you can get yourself up for every weekend?
Jacob - It’s something that you can but really the best thing for shin splints is rest because there’s 4 reason why you might… And I’ve just sort of made this up, there may be more. But in my experience there’s 4 reasons why you may get shin splints. One is the shoes you’re wearing, so you’ll want to look at your shoes. The other one is your conditioning, so your conditioning of your lower leg. The other one is weight, so you might be carrying a little bit too much weight on you. And then the other one is, I forgot what I was going to say. I think it was, so shoes, surface, conditioning and weight, yeah so the last one was surface. And so the surface that you’re running on. So if you are a little bit overweight and you start running you may experience shin splints. If you start running on a different surface to what you’re used to, so a really hard surface or a wet surface. So while it’s really wet and muddy out on football grounds at the moment you may experience shin splints. The shoes that you’re wearing, if they’re old and they don’t have much cushioning in them then you may experience shin splints. And the last one I was talking about was, I forget.
Jackson - Very good Jacob, very good.
How do you relieve the pain caused by your shin splints?
Thanks for checking this out!
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