Apex Clinic’s secret ingredient for tackling shin splints:

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Apex Clinic’s secret ingredient for tackling shin splints:

The term ‘shin splints’ is really a bit of a dustbin diagnosis.  It is a catch-all term that is widely used to describe any pain occurring below the knee, whatever the source.  Of course, this doesn’t stop it from being the bane of many runners’ lives.  Indeed most runners will suffer from it at some point in varying degrees, from mild shin pain to pain that is debilitating.  The 3 most common causes of shin splints…

Going back to basics, we can’t really tackle shin splints without giving the 3 most commonly documented causes of the condition a quick mention.  So, in no particular order, these are as follows:

  • Stress fracture, an incomplete crack in the bone
  • Inflammation of the muscles on the inside border of the shin bone, particularly the tibialis posterior muscle
  • Compartment syndrome, a swelling of muscles within a closed compartment

These causes of shin pain can all be diagnosed by an experienced physiotherapist.  In some cases, a bone and/or MRI scan may be used to confirm the diagnosis or compartment pressure testing may be used to diagnose compartment syndrome.

The secret 4th common cause for shin splints:

From over 20 years’ experience of successfully treating shin pain, Rebecca Nelson, Director of Physio at Apex Clinic and spinal physiotherapy nerve specialist, has identified a fourth, lesser known common cause of shin splints.  Although widely overlooked in the UK compared to clinics in Australia and New Zealand, she, and the team at Apex Clinic have seen this to be a very common cause of the problem.  So, don’t despair if you have already had treatment for shin pain that hasn’t worked, we may have the answer for you.

Ever considered altered neural dynamics? 

Maybe not as much as ‘When’s my next marathon?’ or ‘How am I going to shave another 10 seconds off my PB?’, but if you are suffering from shin pain, this question may be worth a thought.  Pain in the shin can result from altered neural dynamics, which means a lack of freedom of movement of one of the nerves passing through the front area of the shin called the deep peroneal nerve.  The whole area is often extremely tender to touch.  If this nerve is not moving freely as you run or even walk, you will feel pain and this is caused by poor nerve movement.   This pain is often worse when running downhill and by faster pace running.

Is your pain caused by altered nerve movement?

The physios at Apex Clinic, who are specialised in nerve pain can diagnose this cause of shin pain by performing tests to stimulate movement of this nerve.  If the nerve isn’t moving freely, the person will feel the same pain in their shin as they have experienced whilst running.  From the very first session, it should be straightforward to diagnose, especially as our physiotherapists are experienced in treating nerve pain conditions.

The good news: once diagnosed your pain can be cleared!

Don’t run through your pain or give up your trainers just yet; that PB is still in sight!  The good news is that once diagnosed your pain can usually be completely cleared.  Treatment involves the physio progressively working the affected nerve at the front of the shin to free up its movement and break up scar tissue.  The runner will also be given a set of home exercises to do to keep the nerve moving between sessions and some more on discharge from physio.  These exercises can be continued for a while afterwards to prevent the problem from recurring.

Why not seek a second opinion at Apex Clinic if you are affected by shin pain which hasn’t been cleared?  Remember, accurate diagnosis as to the exact cause of the shin pain is the essential ingredient for recovery.