shin_splints.gifAny athletes who run long distances may occasionally suffer from Tibial Stress Syndrome, which is commonly referred to as shin splints. The pain from shin splints occurs because the tibia, the long bone in the front of the leg which goes from the knee to the ankle, and the connective tissues attached to it become overloaded. This often happens when people train too hard or for too long, or when they suddenly change their training habits and, for example, start running on harder surfaces or on uneven ground.

The first step is to begin by resting and limit any stress to the shin area. Many people visit their physiotherapist or sports therapist in order to correct this problem. Acupuncture may be another useful option.

Acupuncture is most effective when the symptoms first appear. An acupuncture treatment works on the whole body to release a variety of substances including endorphins, serotonin, neuropeptides, and neurotransmitters. For shins splints, acupuncture can help promote healing by attracting white blood cells to the area, reduce pain, and increase local micro-circulation. All these things can increase the rate of healing, reduce swelling, and disperse bruising.

In 2002, researchers conducted a random controlled trial entitled Acupuncture and Tibial Stress Syndrome, which was published in vol. 70 of the Journal of Chinese Medicine. 40 athletes with shin splints were divided into three treatment groups: acupuncture, standard sports medicine, and a combination of the two. The acupuncture and combined groups reported significantly lower pain levels during all activities and at rest. For overall effectiveness, acupuncture was rated at 72.5%, the combined therapy at 54.5%, and standard sports medicine at 46.5%. Self-medication with anti-inflammatory drugs was also much lower in the acupuncture and combined groups. Therefore, this study shows that acupuncture could be an effective modality for relieving pain from shin splints and for reducing a reliance on anti-inflammatory medication.
I always recommend that anyone with shin splints should first consult a primary care physician in order to rule out a compartment syndrome.

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