Do you feel tenderness and pain along the side of your shins every time you exercise? Have you felt swelling in the front of your leg since you returned home from the jog the other day?
If so, you might have a case of shin splints.
In this article, we’ll discuss what shin splints are, how to identify them, and what you can do to both treat and prevent them. Plus, we’ll answer a question we hear from people all the time: Is shin splint physical therapy really necessary?
What are shin splints?
Shin splints are an inflammatory condition that affects the shinbone and surrounding tissue. They are caused by repetitive stress on the tibia bone, which can result in pain, swelling and impaired function of the lower leg muscles.
Symptoms include pain along the shinbone near its middle section (known as anterior tibial pain syndrome), or at either end of it (known as tibial stress syndrome). Shin splints can also be accompanied by swelling around the shinbone area, redness of skin overlying it and/or tenderness to touch overlying it.
Is physical therapy necessary for shin splints?
Physical therapy can be an effective treatment for shin splints. Here are some of the ways it could help you:
- Reduces inflammation — Physical therapists use a technique called manual therapy, in which they physically manipulate your joints and soft tissue with their hands to encourage blood flow. This technique can help reduce inflammation.
- Reduces pain — Manual therapy also helps to relieve stiffness and tension in soft tissue, which can help with pain management. Not to mention, your physical therapist will teach you exercises that strengthen your leg muscles, making it easier for them to support your body weight without pain.
- Prevents future shin splints — Some cases of shin splints are caused by poor form when doing physical activity. Your physical therapist will teach you how to exercise, play your sport of choice or perform your day job while avoiding shin injuries.
How long does it take to recover from shin splints?
Shin splints can take anywhere from one to six months to heal. You should expect to avoid vigorous exercise or sports for at least two to four weeks, resuming only when the pain is gone. Take your time transitioning back into sports or exercise, as shin splints can easily return.
Can I treat my shin splints at home?
Most physical therapy treatment programs include some type of at-home component. Your therapist will likely teach you some exercises and request that you do them at home between sessions. In addition, you can treat your shin splints at home with the following:
- Ice — Ice helps to slow blood flow to your injury, which reduces swelling and numbs your shins. This can aid in pain management and help to promote a faster recovery. For best results, we recommend icing several times a day for at least one week.
- Arch supports — Orthotic sole inserts provide cushion support for your feet and act as shock absorbers. This can prevent your shin splints from worsening, as much of the shock absorbed by your feet shoots up your leg to your shins.
- Compression sleeves — Strategically compressing your legs helps to increase blood flow to your shins, which can promote healing in that area. Blood brings oxygen to your injured shins, which helps to regenerate cells, as well as nutrients that aid in healing.
Note: These at-home treatments are most effective when used as part of a supervised physical therapy treatment plan. We don’t recommend relying solely on these approaches to treat your shin splints.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch shin splint physical therapy
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address shin splints.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Come find the physical therapist who can help treat your shin splints.