With the the new year approaching and many new years resolutions to be active, injury prevention should be on everyone’s mind. Many lower extremity conditions can develop through training, competition and overuse. Some common lower extremity conditions that plague the weekend warrior and even the avid runner are shin splints, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, and various bursitis’.
These conditions commonly share biomechanical dysfunctions: weak foot intrinsic muscles, ankle instability, overactive calves, and weak glutes are just a few. Shin Splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, result from too much force being placed on the shin and connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bone. Symptoms are pain and tenderness along the inside of the shin during activity and at first generally calms down after exercise. In chronic or long-standing cases, pain may persist after the activity.
Risk-factors for shin splints are tight calves, unstable ankles, weak anterior tibialis and having flat feet. Running on hard surfaces and participating in activities with sudden starts and stops may increase your risk for developing shin splints. Treatments for shin splints consist of stretching, Active Release and/or Graston, and functional rehabilitation of the feet, ankles and leg muscles. One can prevent this leg pain by choosing the correct shoe wear for their feet, cross training and varying their running surface. Strengthening insoles can be helpful.
The ankle is a joint primarily made up of 3 bones and many ligaments. The muscles of the lower leg and feet act to stabilize the ankle along with their primary functions. When imbalances occur in these muscles ankle stability is lost and the chance of injury greatly increases. Commonly, the calf becomes overactive, weakening the anterior tibalis and changing the arches of the foot. Dorsiflexion or foot rising is lost causing the toe raising muscles to be recruited. These overactive muscles begin to produce extra stress on the shin. Over time stress pulls on the tibia leading to pain.
As the muscle imbalance grows the ankle becomes more unstable. The ankle ligaments are continuously stretched and pushed to their limits. At this point, ankle sprains and strains can occur. So if you are dealing with shin splints or “weak ankles,” click here to see exercises that maybe beneficial to you.
Yours in health,
Dr. Justin Hildebrand