Shin Splint Treatments Combining Graston Technique Therapy
Shin splints are one of the most common causes of leg pain. Generally, the area near the shin bone becomes sore and tender. Over time, mild stiffness and dull pain become sharp pain, especially when running or jumping. The muscle and tendons next to the shin (tibia bone) become very tender to the touch and might even become swollen. Eventually, the pain becomes severe enough to prevent any activity at all.
Shin splints are a tendonitis or tendinosis injury of the tibialis anterior muscle. They usually occur while participating in running or jumping sports that overwhelm the muscle and tendon. Young athletes and runners are most susceptible to this kind of injury, but it is also common with middle-aged people starting to run longer miles.
The pain begins in the lower leg near the tibia bone, usually on the outside. It begins as a mild pain in one or two spots. Over time, the intensity and the area of leg pain increase. In mild and moderate cases, the pain is present at the beginning and end of workouts. At its worst, the pain feels like a sharp stab that prevents any running. It can become painful to climb up or down steps.
Shin splints are usually the result of increasing your workout routine. They are common when starting running or jumping activities.
Diagnosis is generally made during the physical examination and history. X-rays and MRIs are sometimes used to rule out stress fractures in the tibia. The most important findings are the result of palpation, which can reproduce the pain along the tibialis tendon and its insertion on the bone.
Graston Technique is utilized in many professional, Olympic, and collegiate sports therapy programs. Specifically-designed stainless steel instruments have rounded, concave and convex edges. The edges are not sharp. Graston tools are classified under Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) and are used to detect and effectively treat soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation. With these instruments the practitioner can scan over and detect areas of fibrotic tissue.
There are six different Graston tools to help break up fascial restrictions or scar tissue that develops after trauma to muscles, ligaments, tendons, or fascia, which is commonly referred to as soft tissue. Scar tissue forms when tissue does not heal correctly, or is under chronic, repetitive stress. Scar tissue is weaker than normal muscle and connective tissue, which is why it becomes chronically sore with activity.
Scar tissue accumulates in the body whenever tissue undergoes excessive stress and strain. Scar tissue is like the body's duct tape; it is meant as a short term patch to help support tissue. However, in some cases the scar tissue is not replaced with normal collagen fibers. Scar tissue is also referred to as fascial adhesions, as it causes restrictions between the body's fascia. Stiffness, loss of normal range of motion and chronic pain develops from patches of fascial adhesions.
The next time a scar tissue patch undergoes stress and strain it becomes aggravated and flares up. This process causes more scar tissue to be added to the outside of the patch and the process repeats itself over and over, leading to larger accumulation of scar tissue patches.
I like to describe scar tissue patches as "onions." Scar tissue ends up growing in layers around the initial injury. Stress to the area aggravates the outside layers and triggers another layer to be formed. The layers further from the center are easier to aggravate than the inside layers, which is why the onion continues to grow in size without causing the inside area to properly repair.
Adding Graston Technique to any treatment decreases overall treatment time. It reduces the need for anti-inflammatory medication and enhances rehabilitation. Many patients with chronic conditions show significant improvement with IASTM. Your provider is trained in how to properly utilize the instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization of either Graston, Gua Sha, and ASTYM. Basic concepts and treatments with IASTM:
Home therapies are recommended to limit further scar tissue formation, encourage proper healing and speed up recovery. Braces and supports may be recommended for specific injuries.
Graston Technique works by stretching the outer layer of the "onion" and breaking it into several pieces. The Graston instruments use shear force to pull the top fascial layer across the bottom fascial layer. This pulling motion breaks up the scar tissue between the layers. The broken scar tissue triggers healing mechanisms to migrate into the tissue and properly repair the muscles and soft tissues.
Ice therapy helps limit additional scar tissue formation, inflammation, and pain. The next office visits breaks up the next layer of scar tissue, working toward the center of the onion. The goal is to get to the center of the onion so the body can fix the original problem.
Many sports therapy chiropractors, physical therapists, doctors, and athletic trainers have been properly trained in how to utilize the Graston tools.
Graston Technique is not meant to be painful and should be performed at a comfortably tolerable level to break up scar tissue. Being too aggressive with Graston Technique, Active Release Technique, manual therapy, cross friction therapy, or massage therapy causes excessive pain and actually slows the repair process by flooding the area with inflammation.
Treatment usually lasts a few minutes per area or region. As the treatment tool slides across the soft tissue fibrotic areas, the injury may feel "bumpy or sandpaper-like." Redness and mild swelling may develop with treatment, especially after the first few treatments. In some cases, small petechiae or bruises may develop post-treatment. Ice therapy is commonly utilized post-treatment to limit the bruising, pain, and inflammation.
Most people notice a significant difference after 4-6 visits. Severe cases may take a little longer to see significant improvement. Runners, triathletes, and weekend warrior athletes have all benefited from this therapy. Over the course of treatment, most patients notice that less bumpiness, sandpaper, and tenderness is felt around the injury. As the treatment progresses, your healthcare provider will be able to apply more pressure, thereby treating deeper and deeper tissue levels.
Therapeutic treatments for addressing soft tissue injuries involve massage therapy, manual therapy, trigger point therapy, or Active Release Technique combined with Graston Technique. These treatments increase blood flow, decrease muscle spasms, enhance flexibility, speed healing, and promote proper tissue repair.
When these treatments are incorporated into a treatment plan patients heal faster and are less likely to have long-term pain or soft tissue fibrosis or scar tissue in the injured muscle. These soft tissue treatments are integrated with therapeutic exercise and flexibility programs.
Soft tissue treatments restore proper muscle function and flexibility; and exercise restore strength, endurance, and neuromuscular control. Neuromuscular control is especially important and often not emphasised in many therapy clinics.
For any joint to work optimally the muscles need to contract and the exact right time. In many chronic injuries the muscles are not "firing" correctly leading to excessive strain on neighboring muscles and tendons. Many chronic rotator cuff injuries are the result of poor neuromuscular control.
The two legs function as a system for movement. Injuries in one area area of the system are commonly associated with poor joint stabilization in the foot, knee, or hip. This leads to poor alignment and excessive forces being placed onto muscles and tendons. Knee injuries and Iliotibial band friction syndrome is common in runners because of weakness and poor stabilization of the leg and hip muscles. These runners have a combination of muscle weakness, poor coordination, and altered gait mechanics.
Leg sprains and strains usually cause injuries in multiple areas in the leg, one spot usually just hurts more than the others. Many people develop back or knee pain because of dysfunction in walking or running gaits. Overcompensating to protect an injury or weakness eventually overwhelms the compensating muscles and tendons leading to pain.
Many knee injuries are direction related to weakness in gluteus medius and hip stabilizers; which causes excessive internal rotation of the knee while walking or running. A lack of hip stability increases the impact forces that travel up the leg and into the knee joints. Dysfunction in the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis muscles of the quadriceps further increase the internal rotation. If the foot over pronates, the knee absorbs additional strain on the stabilizing muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Treatments for foot pain often involve neuromuscular stabilizing exercises for the hip, knee, ankle, and foot; along with enhancing leg and hip strength and endurance.
Proprioception exercises quickly accelerate healing and help prevent future leg compensation injuries.
NSAIDs are often prescribed for the initial acute injury stages. In severe cases that involve multiple joint regions, muscle relaxers or oral steroids can be given. Trigger point injections, botox, or steroid injections can be treatment options. Prolotherapy or Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection therapy can enhance healing, especially with internal joint injuries or difficult tendon injuries. Pain management is not usually required unless stronger medications or advanced joint injections are required for treatment.
MRI and X-rays will not usually be ordered to evaluate mild to moderate muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries. Severe cases may utilize advanced imaging to rule out bone fractures, edema, nerve entrapments, tendon or muscle ruptures. NCV testing may be utilized in cases that also involve muscle, sensory, or reflex loss.
Lumbar disc bulges and herniations onto the spinal cord or nerve root produce different symptoms and location of symptoms. Pain radiating in the foot is one symptom; along with numbness, weakness, fatigue, loss of sensation, or reduced reflexes. Your chiropractor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or physician will evaluate your condition and make a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Ask them any questions you might have about your injury.
Many people do have arthritis or degenerative changes in their back, hip, knee, or foot joints. Arthritis does not mean you will always have pain in the joints. Degenerative arthritis means the structural integrity of the bones have changed which alters its gliding, sliding, and hinging motions. The more severe the arthritic changes the easier it becomes to aggravate the joint and produce pain.
Likewise joints may take longer to heal when joints they have significant joint cartilage and bone degeneration. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis will also slow healing and recovery time. However, arthritis does not mean a joint will always be painful. People with severe arthritis can eventually be pain free. In fact many times incorrectly blame their arthritis as the source of their pain when it is actually coming from injured tendons.
This is especially common in knee pain, where people believe their daily dull and sharp pain is osteoarthritis or meniscus tears when much of the pain is coming from chronic knee tendonitis in the small tendons that insert around the knee joint and patella bone.
Graston Technique is especially effective at stimulating and enhancing tendon repair and eliminating chronic tendon pain.
Low level laser therapy is another treatment option for enhancing muscle and tendon healing. Class IV cold lasers stimulate the fibroblasts or healing cells to "work faster." Specific frequencies can also decrease inflammation in the soft tissues and inside of the joints. Combining low level laser therapy with Graston Technique enhances soft tissue healing and repair.
The lower extremity works as a comprehensive unit so you can rung, walk, squat, bend, or turn. You appreciate your legs when many basic and repetitive tasks at home, work, or the gym become impossible because of pain. Injuries to one area of the musculature often indicate that additional damage has been incurred by other muscles.
Many therapeutic exercises can help restore proper strength and endurance to the hip and leg muscles. Isometric exercises are often the initial treatment exercises. Followed by single plane rubber band exercises for flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, and rotational movements. Dynamic exercises involving stability ball, BOSU, Foam, and vibrational exercises enhance propioception and neuromuscular control. The more unstable of the surface the more effort and stabilization is required of all the lower extremity muscles.
Our Chandler Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Clinic treats patients with a variety of muscle, tendon, joint, and ligament injuries. The clinic provides treatment for runners, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors in addition to common headache, neck, and back patients traditionally seen in Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Massage Therapy clinics. We work with all ages and abilities of the residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler AZ.