It’s That Time of Year…For Your Child to Suffer from Shin Splints ☹
With the start of school and school athletics, children are returning to the field or gymnasium only to find that within a couple weeks of starting the season, he/she is complaining of shin pain. Usually the problem is called Shin Splints-Shin Splints can be described as pain on the inside of the shin bone - usually appearing gradually and getting worse the more running your child does.
So why does this always happen this time of year?
- Most children do not run and jump as much over the summer as they do when they start participating in their sport. Their muscles are not conditioned for the rapid increase in activity so the muscle strains to keep up with this sudden burst of activity and running on hard surfaces.
- Not only are children less active over the summer, but they also do not stretch their leg muscles to adjust for the rapid bone growth their bodies are experiencing. When the bones of their legs grow very fast the muscles have not stretched out to accommodate and therefore pull on the bones causing your child shin pain (and knee pain too).
- As children grow, their feet grow and change as well, resulting in a need to pay attention to their sneakers and cleats to determine if they are still supporting his/her feet properly.
Here are some quick tips to ease shin pain:
- Even though they are children, and assumed flexible, a child should still properly warm up with dynamic stretching before he/she exercises. Most coaches can assist with providing an adequate dynamic warm up but in the rare instance your child does not warm up pre-exercise, your child should take it upon her/himself to warm up properly.
- After Exercise—Static Stretch the legs from the hips down, and especially focus on the front and back of the lower legs.
- Ice regularly after activity that causes shin pain.
- Apply gentle Foam Rolling to the fronts and backs of the legs which can help to ease sore and tight muscles both before and after activity.
- Check your child’s shoes and replace them well before season start, and break them in slowly to allow your child’s feet to adjust to the change in pressure from stiffer sneakers or cleats. If your child is wearing last year’s sneakers/cleats—make sure they are not causing abnormal rolling in of the ankle/foot and allowing the child’s feet to somewhat flatten. Hand-me-downs sometimes feed into poor foot posture and therefore cause stress on the lower leg muscles. A new pair of sneakers and shoes can often offset these issues. Just remember to break them in slowly as to ward off blisters and sore feet.
- If the pain continues to be severe despite stretching, icing and change of footwear, talk to the school’s athletic trainer to see if your child can do stationary cycling, swimming, or rowing to maintain his/her cardiovascular fitness until the shin inflammation reduces. Running may need to be avoided all together.
If all of these tips do not work, then a trip to your local physical therapist can help. Deeper tissue work, manual stretching, taping, and mobilization techniques, as well as an evaluation of your child’s feet, provided by a physical therapist can keep your child in the game or expedite the return to his/her sport faster than waiting it out. If your child suffers from shin pain and you would like some advice, give me a call at 860-507-7365 or email me at email@example.com to set up a free discovery visit to see if physical therapy is appropriate for your child.