What Causes Shin Splints? (Part 3 of 4) - Active Health and Restoration
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What Causes Shin Splints? (Part 3 of 4)


Dr. Alex Earl, DC shares insights and simple strategies to help competitive and everyday athletes like you deal with shin splint pain in the Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream & Winfield area.


The Best Kept Secret to Avoiding Shin Splint & Bone Injuries 

Last week, we focused on the excessive workload and insufficient recovery and how both of those effect the development of shin splints. This week, we need to address the elephant in the room. Bone. 

In our opinion, bone gets overlooked when it comes to the development and management of anterior or posterior shin splints. We believe bone should be properly structured to handle the workload increases, but unfortunately, oftentimes it is not. 

We get out of balance with bone density and structure when what we do to our body exceeds what we put into our body. Yes, weight-bearing exercises have been shown to significantly increase bone density, BUT output is secondary to input. (Again, this is all in our opinion). 

Insufficient nutrient replenishment for optimal bone health

Take a look at the picture below:


Prioritize and execute. The order matters!

The photo depicts two glass jars; the one on the right was filled first with the rocks, then the pebbles and finally the sand. The jar on the left was filled in exactly the opposite order; sand, pebbles, and finally the rocks. As you can observe, the jar on the left overflows. By focusing on the little items first, there was simply no room for the big "rocks". The big rocks are analogous to sleep, nutrition, hydration and thoughts - our 4 Pillars of Athletic Excellence. 

Bad Diet

The Over-Flowing Cup Analogy

When we repeatedly sleep poorly, we rob ourselves of the greatest tissue healing hormone our body's create - growth hormone (No, this NOT the same illegal substance Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Barry Bond all took - that was Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, which was a synthetic version of this hormone). 

Growth hormone spikes in the blood stream while we sleep. While I am not 100% certain we can "speed up tissue healing" like more gurus and experts might have you believe, I believe we can mitigate the unnecessary prolonging of an injury simply by mastering sleep, nutrition and hydration. 

But, as you can see from the cartoon cups in the above image, when we repeatedly fill our cup up with inadequate stressors like poor sleep, bad nutrition, negative thoughts and poor hydration, we leave no room for optimal performance. Our cup simply "overflows". This frequently occurs in student-athletes who try so hard to juggle the rigorous demands of both athletic and academic schedules. 

What happens when the cup overflows? 

Well, when the "cup" overflows, we start to breakdown. First, in the form of muscle tension and eventually all the way through to a bone stress injury (BSI). The stages of a bone stress injury are as follows: 

1. Bone Stress Injury - Tender to the touch, but can still weight bear. Mild discomfort at rest. Changes in bone cannot be seen on xray.
2. Bone Stress Reaction - Moderate tenderness to touch. Can only weight bear for short periods. Mild discomfort at rest. Changes in bone CAN be seen on X-ray (See below image in right hand side)

3. Bone Stress Fracture - Extreme sensitivity to even mild touch. Possible pitting edema (swelling). Cannot full weight bear for lengthy period of time. Mild to moderate discomfort at rest. Changes in bone can be seen on Xray and MRI (see MRI below on left hand side). 


MRI of a Tibial (shin bone) Stress Fracture


X-Ray of a Fibular (Outer Shin) Stress Reaction - Note the outgrowth of bone

What can we do about a bone stress injury? 

As always, I will attempt to provide a solution to a problem. I fear the day in which I become just another provider spreading helpful but fear-inducing information with my content. My commitment to putting these blogs out has been primarily driven by my desire to help solve the problems head on. It starts by addressing common misconceptions, providing helpful information and then ultimately dishing out helpful solutions for more people to get relief. 

If you were to walk into our office in Carol Stream and ask me what you could do for shin splints, here's exactly what I would tell you. 

Come in 2-3 x's per week for blood-flow restriction (BFR) therapy and begin taking the Athlete's Nutrient Arsenal NOW.

Most people simply elect to "rest and ice" for injuries. Unfortunately, rest and ice will only help mask the symptoms. As soon as you get back out on the field or the track, the shin splint pain will (most likely) return. How frustrating is that? Even if you were told to rest and ice for shin splints, there is ALWAYS something more you can do than just rest. 

Every day in our Carol Stream clinic we have helped athletes, just like you, overcome shin splints and bone stress injuries properly. They have returned to soccer, basketball, and running without any fear or frustration because they did more than just rest and ice. In fact, if I was still a collegiate athlete, I would be doing preventative BFR 2-3 x's per week in season along with taking the Athlete's Nutrient Arsenal. 

The Athlete's Nutrient Arsenal

1. Magnesium - Preferably this one,, which is in powder form and mixes well with water. Avoid tablets or pills as they are quite difficult to digest and absorb.

2. Vitamin D - Our preferred Vit. D supplement is this one from  BioTech Pharmacal. You can get either  5,000 IUs or  50,000 IUs.

3. Juice Plus  - With all the added oxidative stress athletes accumulate, we need one simple food which counter-acts those negative effects of exercise. There's nothing better for this job than fruits and vegetables.  Juice Plus is simply the best fruit and vegetable food option with tons and tons of vital antioxidants. With over three dozens published studies, no other nutraceutical comes close to effectiveness at reducing oxidate stress. The chewables are consumed daily at our house and helps us stay healthy with those powerful antioxidants. Fun fact: After just one month of taking Juice Plus, my digestive issues were resolved and I no longer relied on coffee or espresso to "clean out my system" each day.

So that concludes what happens when we under-develop our bones and how it can lead to the manifestation of shin splints. So far, we've addressed the myths surrounding medical opinions, highlighted the excessive workload issue, and now the underdevelopment of bone as critical drivers in the cause of shin splints. 

Do this next:

1. Share this blog with someone you know who would find this information useful.

2. Text our office if you are interested in a FREE Sample of the Juice Plus Chewables mentioned in the blog - Call/text: (630) 765-0575

3. Keep an eye out in your inbox next Wednesday for the 4th (and final!) Installment in our 4-part blog series. 

Dedicated to restoring you health. 

Dr. Alex Earl, DC DACRB

Alex Earl

Alex Earl

Alex Earl, DC - Chiropractic Physician - Dr. Earl helps people of all ages remain active, strong and able to participate in the activities they love. Aside from Active Health & Restoration, Alex is a clinical instructor for Midwest Rehabilitation Institute, along with a few other professional educational organizations across the country. He is a Diplomate in Clinical Rehabilitation through the American Chiropractic Board of Rehabilitation (ACRB). Dr. Earl earned his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree from National University of Health Sciences in 2015. He is currently a resident in West Chicago, IL with his beautiful wife, and four (perfect) children. In his spare time, Alex coaches high school soccer.
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