Shin splints can be frustrating and are common for runners in particular. In this post, we describe taping techniques that may help ease the pain.
The colloquial term shin splints refers to leg pain that arises from a variety of sources, such as arch strains, tendinitis, compartment syndrome, or stress fractures of the tibia or fibula. Seek the assistance of an experienced clinician to identify the source and mechanism of injury.
A strain, or falling of the longitudinal arch, causes the tarsal bones of the foot to
spread. The flattened foot can place undue stress where the extensor retinacula tie
the anterior tendons to the leg. The extra stress causes the patient to experience
pain in the distal leg.
Tendinitis may occur in any of the tendons that cross the ankle, but the posterior tibial tendon receives the greatest number of injuries. Running on uneven or banked surfaces that place one ankle in continuous eversion will precipitate injury. A hyperpronated foot could also contribute to the injury mechanism.
The tibia, fibula and superficial fascia of the leg create a compartment through which the anterior muscles, the deep peroneal nerve, a vein and an artery traverse. When the anterior muscles swell, they create chronic anterior compartment syndrome, producing leg pain and numbness that radiate into the foot.
Stress fractures to the tibia or fibula are a disruption to the periosteum and commonly occur in patients who undergo prolonged periods of running. No taping procedure will help the symptoms associated with a stress fracture. The patient usually requires 6 weeks of rest before the symptoms resolve.
Shin Splints – Taping technique
A haphazard taping approach often prevails in the treatment of shin splints. Several techniques exist to remedy leg pain. If the pain occurs because of a fallen longitudinal arch, the patient may find relief from simple arch taping combined with two or three strips placed around the distal leg to support the extensor retinacula (figure 2.29). A closed basketweave designed to limit eversion aids posterior tibial tendinitis. Patients have also reported relief from compression taping rather than from a procedure that supports the involved musculature (figure 2.30). No type of taping is likely to alleviate the effects of compartment syndrome or stress fractures.
This video demonstrates the application of tape to the anterior leg to support shin
Exercises for Shin Splints
The stretching and strengthening exercises for the ankle and longitudinal arch can also be effective in decreasing leg pain (some examples of these can be found in book Athletic Taping, Bracing, and Casting.) Have the patient give special attention to achieving a balance between the strength of the anterior and posterior leg muscles. The patient should also use high-quality footwear.
If you are a massage therapist or physiotherapist you may be interested in our upcoming webinar Advice, exercises and treatments for low back pain presented by Jane Johnson. This webinar is co-hosted by Human Kinetics and the FHT. Sign up now, its free.