Treatment and Rehabilitation
In the first blog piece of this series we explored the signs and symptoms of ‘shin splints’ and considered some preventative techniques. But what should you do if you are already suffering with shin splints? In part two we explore some possible management and rehabilitative tools for dancers diagnosed with the condition.
During the acute painful phase, initial treatment of shin splints should include first aid. Following this, longer term exercises to improve flexibility, movement control and strength will help prevent recurrence of the condition. Trinity Laban Health Physiotherapist Tania Amorim provides some top tips to help reduce pain, identify causes and help the dancer return to full fitness. It is important to note that the following guidelines are for information purposes only and it is recommended to always seek professional advice before attempting any self-treatment.
Five Tips to Help Manage Shin Splints
1. Stretch & Rest Be sure to loosen up tight calves and Achilles tendons as this is common cause of shin splints. Reduce running or jumping and try low-impact cross-training instead, a good example of this is swimming. When you resume training, do so gradually. Too much too soon could halt rehabilitation
Exercises that can help stretch and release the area are:
- Wrap a band around one foot just below the toes and use the other foot as a lever while you hold the band
- Starting with your feet in parallel. Slowly turn the active foot inwards and then outwards.
- Repeat (approximately 8 repetitions for 3 sets)
Wall Calf Stretch
- Stand facing a wall a few feet away. Stagger your stance and place one foot forward.
- Lean forward and rest your hands on the wall, keeping your heel, hip and head in a straight line.
- Attempt to keep your heel on the ground. Hold for 10-20 seconds and then switch sides. Repeat 3 times each side.
Foam Roller Calf Release
Position the foam roller under your calves. Using your hands for support, slowly roll from the knee down to the ankle pausing on any tight or sore spots. Roll with your feet turned in and out, keeping the toes flexed and pointed to work the entire muscle group.Increase or decrease pressure by using one or both legs at a time, or placing one leg on the other for even more pressure.
2. Apply Ice Cold therapy can be beneficial when rehabilitating from shin splints. You may want to try specialist cold therapy wraps on continuously moving ice along the affected area (dynamic icing).
Another method to reduce pain is the contrast therapy: the method is based on the alternation of hot and cold water to help boost circulation and reduce sensibility of the interested area. Our Physiotherapist Tania Amorim recommends 2 minutes of hot water followed by 4 minutes of cold water and so on.
3. General Strength and Cardio Exercises
In order to prevent shins splints recurring it is necessary to strengthen other muscle areas around the shin, i.e. quads, glutes and calf muscles. It is very important to increase general strength in the whole leg in order to adequately distribute the workload on the muscles. Cycling and swimming are highly recommended as they utilise the whole leg.
4. Strengthening Exercises
When symptoms start to improve, progressive strengthening exercises can be introduced.
- Sit with your legs straight in a parallel position and place a small pillow under one of the knees.
- Place a resistance band around your foot as demonstrated.
- Without moving the knee, point and flex your foot.
- Repeat several times on both legs.
Toe Raises and Toe Curls
Toe raises are a good starting point when looking to strengthen the shin muscles. Start with only a few repetitions and gradually increase. Keeping the heel on the ground, lift the rest of the foot as high as possible.
Alternate with toe curls: put a towel underneath one of your feet and slowly try to gather the towel with your foot. Feel the tension underneath the foot and and slowly release the towel going back to the starting position. Less is more with this exercise!
5. Add Arch Support (only if prescribed by healthcare practitioner)
Add arch support by “lifting” the arch of the foot with insoles. In this way you will be able to take the stress off of your lower legs. This is a temporary solution: you don’t need to use these forever. You can remove them once you’re fully recovered.
Giovanna Piccolo, Administrative Intern for Health
Tania Amorim, Trinity Laban Health Physiotherapist