What are Shin Splints?
Shin Splints are common for dancers. However, as dancers are returning to dance after lock downs we are seeing this condition more than ever. Dancers stopping and starting training, dancing at home on floors not designed for dance, and a sudden increase in activity is a perfect storm for this condition. I worked with six dancers last week who are struggling with this injury.
The phrase "Shin Splints" is an umbrella term for several conditions. Here are 3 conditions that would fall in the Shin Splints umbrella.
Stress fractures- These are tiny breaks in the bone. The most common reason for this is poor alignment in the joints or a weakness in the bones. When all the joints in the body are in the right place your body has a powerful shock absorption system. Alignment that is even slightly off could affect your bone health. Also, our bones get stronger with impact training. If you took time off from dancing over the last year your bones might not be as strong as they once were.
Periostitis- Is an inflammation of the periosteum, the fascial sheath that surrounds the bones. This is most commonly caused by a muscular imbalance or poor alignment in the lower leg. A tug from the back of the leg will pull on the tissue in the front causing it to be inflamed. Rest and care are important to reduce the inflammation, but it is important to work to release the overworked muscles and strengthen the weaker parts. If these steps are not taken it has a strong chance of coming back.
Chronic exertional compartment syndrome- This occurs when the muscles around the bone swell and the lining encasing those muscles gets too tight, cutting off the oxygen and blood supply. This can be a serious condition and it is important to have a qualified medical team involved to monitor the pressure. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
So…What do we do now?
Step 1 Get evaluated
It is important for your team to have all the information before beginning a rehab program. Have your Doctor do a proper evaluation so you know whether you are dealing with a bone or tissue injury.
Step 2 Heal
It is hard to take time off. However, this type of injury will not go away without rest. The longer you spend dancing with this injury, the longer it will take to heal. In an ideal situation you should stop jumping and start a treatment plan as soon as symptoms occur. Working closely with a Dance Medicine Specialist who understands what you do can be life changing.
Step 3 Address the reason for the injury
This is the most important, and often skipped, part of the healing process. Overuse injuries WILL come back if the movement pattern, or muscular imbalance that caused the injury are not corrected. Even the best dancer with elite training can have small alignment issues that cause pain. It is no longer my job to help you perfect your Kitri variation, but I can tell you to the centimeter if your joint is in the right place and if the correct muscles are working. This attention to detail is necessary to stop the cycle of pain.