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Shin Splint Relief with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

Tibial stress syndrome, commonly known as shin splints, causes pain on the front part of the lower leg. Often, overused leg muscles are the culprit but flat feet, stress fractures and unstable muscles in the hips may also bear responsibility. Usually the pain occurs after exercise, especially if rigorous or a new routine.

Sometimes pain from shin splints resolves after resting, stretching or icing the afflicted area. It is always a good idea to stretch before exercising and to make sure your workout shoes offer proper support. However, when these basic steps fail, it may be time to consider contacting your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner to help ease the pain and swelling.

It is also necessary to determine the cause of the pain. It might be more than just a challenging workout routine. For instance, flat feet (overpronation) may put extra stress on leg muscles. The problem may also originate with a deficiency in the hip muscles, which could cause an uneven distribution of weight on the lower legs and ankles. Stress fractures, small breaks in the tibia, can be a direct cause of shin splints.

Swollen, painful muscles indicate a stagnation of blood and Qi. Qi is the body's original source of energy and is needed to animate blood. Blood supplies the nutrition needed to sustain Qi. In this way, blood and Qi rely on each other to keep a robust circulation of blood throughout the body. Your practitioner may use acupuncture points to encourage the production and distribution of a high-quality blood supply to soothe irritated muscles.

A 2002 study from the Journal of Chinese Medicine shows acupuncture positively treats symptoms associated with shin splints. Forty athletes between the ages of 18 and 45, all with a diagnosis of tibial stress syndrome, participated in this clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture. The participants were assigned treatment according to one of three categories: the acupuncture group, the sports medicine group and the acupuncture/sports medicine group.

For three weeks, each participant in the acupuncture and the acupuncture/sports medicine group received two acupuncture treatments per week. At the end of the trial, according to author Matt Callison, L.Ac, "athletes in the acupuncture and combined groups received the most pain relief, were least hindered by pain during sporting and non-sporting activities, and felt that the treatments were effective." Also worth noting is a decrease in the use of anti-inflammatory drugs within the acupuncture and combined groups.

Not only can your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner literally help you get back on your feet again, once you do, he or she can assist you with creating an exercise regime that is challenging and appropriate for your physical condition. You may need to balance activities with constant, repetitive motions that can stress muscles, such as running or jogging, with alternative exercises like swimming and simple stretches.

Contact a practitioner near you to learn more about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can improve your musculoskeletal health!

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.