Saturday, December 23, 2023

Shin Splints / anterior tibialis soreness

 Writing this up just in case it might be useful to others in a similar circumstance.  Last May I had a fairly good race at Rock The Ridge in Upstate New York.  The race has some nice scenic sections and it is basically 100% well-packed dirt roads. That makes it fairly fast, but it did deliver more pounding than usual to my legs, and I started feeling some shin pain towards the end, especially in the right shin. It did not get better at all in the next three days and I started freaking out a bit since I almost never have shin issues. It was painful to walk and so I even suspected a stress fracture. Thankfully I do have a great PT Joe Rigby in my town who already helped me deal with some Achilles tendon issues in the past.

When Joe did a bit of probing and testing, he thankfully concluded this wasn't a stress fracture, but most likely the muscle being very tense and refusing to relax. The treatment consistent of some massage and Graston technique release, as well as the instructions to work on this myself at home, as follows:

  • Lacrosse ball (or a similar massage ball) rolling along the affected muscles. The technique is demonstrated pretty well by this video:
  • Self massage and release along the Anterior Tibialis muscle:
  • My calves tend to be fairly tight as well, and as it turned out that can be a huge contributing factor to the shin muscle tightness, so all the usual calf stretching, rolling, massaging to get them less tight should help the shins too.
  • Eccentric work on the anterior tibialis -- something along these lines:, except the focus is on the slow release from the 90 degree position to the stretch out position -- one there, scoot up, bring the foot back up to 90 degrees, scoot back stretching the band, release again.

These took a while and the ball rolling was particularly painful at first, but after a while this worked, and I was back to running again. This was a good wake-up call in terms of doing more preventive maintenance, which I started doing (basically the same stretches/exercises), which helped me get through the rest of the "racing season" injury-free.

Hope this is helpful as some background information and some things to try, but every runner is different and the best advice I can give is work with a good PT who knows runners. Proper diagnosis is very important, and often the root causes of issues are not where the pain is.

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