How Physical Therapy Can Eliminate Your Teen’s Shin Splints

How Physical Therapy Can Eliminate Your Teen’s Shin Splints

How Physical Therapy Can Eliminate Your Teen’s Shin Splints

Finding Relief With Sports Physical Therapy in Seattle

Does it seem like your teenager gets shin splints at the start of every sports season? Are you tired of hearing they need to “just rest”? If you have been wondering if there is something else you can do, there is! At MoveMend, our physical therapists will identify all the factors related to your child’s pain and, more importantly, how to resolve it and prevent it from returning!

Lower leg pain is a common complaint in adolescent athletes and is often lumped into the general category called “shin splints.” Unfortunately, by using this broad term, the investigation typically stops. The athlete is almost universally told to use ice and rest, even though not all lower leg pain comes from the same source. 

At MoveMend, our physical therapists don’t stop at the diagnosis. We will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to identify if the pain results from the stress reaction of the shin bone (tibia), a joint control issue, or overuse type injury to the muscles and tendons of the lower leg and foot.

Request an appointment at MoveMend today, and let one of our specialists get to the root of the problem and help resolve it so your teen can play pain-free once again!

What exactly are shin splints and how do they start?

Shin splints are a catchall term that can refer to front shin pain, middle shin pain, or other lower leg pain. In all cases, the most common cause of pain is repetitive microtrauma to the bone, muscles, and/or tendons. When the stress exceeds the ability of the tissue to handle it, the result is pain and inflammation. 

Most times, it is a combination of factors that lead to pain in the lower leg. The exact location of the pain can help determine what is contributing to the pain and how to resolve it effectively. Shin splints are typically divided into two main types:

  • Anterior shin splints: This type of shin splint occurs in the muscles on the front of the shin (i.e., tibialis anterior). 
  • Posterior shin splints (aka medial tibial stress syndrome): These injuries occur in the muscles on the back and inner aspect of the shin bone (i.e., tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus, and soleus muscles)

Knowing how and when the condition started will point to all possible culprits, and determining which one(s) are involved can help identify the root cause of the problem. 

Once the location of the symptoms is clarified, and the likely mechanisms contributing to the pain are determined, it is essential to rule out more serious conditions, including:

  • Compartment syndrome
  • Tibial stress fracture

Compartment syndrome is a significant issue that needs to be dealt with immediately to avoid long-term problems and serious medical problems. A stress fracture is also a significant problem that requires proper treatment to ensure proper healing.

It is very common for an adolescent athlete to complain of shin splints at the start of the season. Countless parents have heard their children complain at the beginning of soccer, lacrosse, and football season. The combination of increased running, running on hard, dried-out fields, and wearing new cleats all contribute to this common issue. 

In addition, shin splints are a common running-related problem and typically develop from overtraining or inadequate rest. They are most commonly associated with middle and long-distance runners or other high-impact activities, including too much hill training (up or down). 

Any vigorous sports activity can bring on shin splints, but they are due to improper footwear for some. Runners that train in cushioned shoes and compete in minimalist style spikes can develop shin splints due to the inadequate preparation from the different styles.

The trend of maximum cushioning can also lead to the development of pain, especially in the muscles and tendons of the lower leg. 

An athlete’s biomechanics, muscle strength, and joint mobility are all factors that may contribute to the development of overuse-type pain and injury. Teenagers with inability or difficulty controlling pronation (foot flattening) have a higher incidence of developing shin splints. Other factors that may contribute to shin splints include:

  • High BMI
  • Female gender
  • Ankle and hip range of motion
  • Previous history of pain and/or injury

At MoveMend, our physical therapists are highly skilled clinicians that can help your teenager identify the cause and help resolve their pain/injury once and for all!

See A Physical Therapist for Relief!

Our physical therapists start with a comprehensive evaluation that includes a range of motion, strength, and movement analysis to identify the possible reasons for your adolescent’s symptoms. We will also ask about their previous injuries, current training, and future goals.

In addition, our therapists will assess their footwear and biomechanics to ensure we have covered all possible causes of their pain and limitations.

All of this information will help determine your individualized program. Using the most advanced treatment approaches will include targeted manual techniques and taping or inserts for pain relief and to improve tissue tolerance to activity. 

In addition, we will teach you stretching/ mobility work to restore any lost motion and improve the tissue’s tolerance to stress.

We will design a strengthening program to address any apparent weaknesses or compensatory patterns and a general, whole-body routine to maximize performance and minimize the risk of injuries. 

Next, we will focus on progressing their dynamic exercises to include balance and coordination drills that ensure they can tolerate the forces of high-impact activities their sport demands.

Our goal is to address any restriction or weakness they may have and give them the tools to prevent future episodes from interfering with their participation!

Request an Appointment at MoveMend today

Our team of physical therapists will resolve your athlete’s pain and provide the foundation for successful training while reducing future injuries. 

Request an assessment and get the tools your teen needs to get back to the sports they love!