Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is commonly referred to as shin splints. This syndrome is common in athletes and individuals who perform repetitive activities such as running. MTSS is considered an overuse injury or a repetitive-stress injury of the shin. When you participate in any repetitive activity such as running that involves the muscles of your lower leg including the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior, there may be excessive stress put on the shin bone itself as well as the muscles attached to it, including the two listed above. This often occurs when there is a sudden increase in trainings such as increasing the intensity or frequency of the activity.
The most common symptoms associated with MTSS include diffuse lower extremity pain along the shin bone with exertion, such as running or increased walking distance or speed. One may also feel tenderness along the shin bone and surrounding muscles. There are many causes when it comes to MTSS, some include increased training regimens, running on uneven or crowned surfaces, and running downhill. Each of these may cause MTSS because they place more stress on the shin bone itself and therefore, the muscles attached to the bone itself.
Physical therapy is a great option when it comes to MTSS or shin splints. Your physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation and examination of your lower extremity and determine any impairments you may have, some including lower extremity weakness, swelling, tenderness or trigger points in musculature, and any abnormalities in your foot and ankle positioning. Trigger points often develop in the tibialis anterior or tibialis posterior due to the increased demand and stress placed on those muscles. Your physical therapist may perform deep tissue massage to reduce those trigger points and return the muscles to a more normalized state so they can begin to function properly. It is often recommended that you rest from any activity that aggravates your symptoms due to its ability to prolong and worsen your symptoms. Ice is also beneficial with MTSS to reduce any inflammation in the area and reduce any pain or soreness felt following manual therapy techniques such as massage and trigger point release. If any muscle tightness is noted, your therapist may also give you a stretching program to increase any lost range of motion due to the tightness. Your therapist will give you an exercise program that you can perform at home to carry over gains made at your treatment sessions. Your therapist may also initiate different modalities to help reduce pain and aid in the healing process. Electrical stimulation may be used to help block pain signals and relax the muscle tissue. Another modality that is often used is ultrasound. This type of ultrasound involves sound waves that increase permeability of the surrounding tissues to increase blood flow to the area which helps start the healing process. Ultrasound may also provide deep heating effects to warm the deeper layers of the tissue before your treatment session.
If you are experiencing any symptoms noted above, contact Total Performance Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment!