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Acupuncture for Shin Splint Relief
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

Medial tibial stress syndrome, commonly referred to as shin splints, can be a painful and bothersome condition, but is usually temporary and not a serious medical problem. The major symptom is pain along the shin bone, known as the tibia. Be aware that if pain and swelling in the area is severe and debilitating, it may be due to a stress fracture, which is a medical emergency.

The pain associated with shin splints usually occurs after a rigorous workout or when a common workout routine is modified. This condition usually affects athletes such as runners, soccer players, and others who regularly run or jump for long periods of time.

Medial tibial stress syndrome is caused by overworking muscles and the connective tissue that attaches the muscle to the bone. This can cause the area to become inflamed and painful, leading to limited mobility. Shin splints will usually heal by itself with rest and ice.

Not everyone who suffers from medial tibial stress syndrome has the time to rest however, as in the case of professional athletes. For those who require a speedy recovery, or desire a quicker end to the discomfort and inconvenience of their pain, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can help provide relief.

During a consultation, it is normal for a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to gently examine the area of the shins to discover precisely where the pain is. Even the areas which are not directly affected are physically examined to determine if there is an obstruction in one of the channels. A channel is a set path upon which Qi travels throughout the body. Qi is a fundamental energy needed for healing, and is what sustains all living beings.

Acupuncture treatments will focus on relieving pain and reducing swelling. This is achieved by inserting acupuncture needles into the spots which are tender. There is a saying according to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine that states “where there is pain, there is an acupuncture point.” These points are called ashi points. When they are needled, the body responds by delivering anti-inflammatory and pain reduction measures directly to those sites.

Additionally, lifestyle and dietary changes may be made to further support the acupuncture treatments and to discourage future development of shin splints. The benefits of using high-quality shoes during a workout cannot be overstated. The support and cushion from high-quality athletic shoes can help stave off the pain associated with shin splints. For some, it may be necessary to use arch supports as well.

Certain foods have properties which can help reduce and prevent inflammation in the body. There's good news for those who like their morning cup of Joe -- a moderate amount of coffee can improve blood circulation and reduce pain. Eating dark-colored fruits, such as blueberries and cherries, provides anti-inflammatory benefits as well. Drinking an 8 ounce glass of water right after a workout will help prevent dehydration and the problems that go with it.

If you find you are experiencing frequent pain or inflammation after your workouts due to shin splints, contact an acupuncturist to learn more about treatment options and what you can do to prevent the condition in the future.

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.