• Dan Turnell

Dancers and shin pain

Shin pain commonly referred to as shin splints is an umbrella term for pain located around the shin area. It can be located on the medial (inside) part of the shin or lateral (outside) part of the shin. If the pain is in the medial part, it is called medial tibial stress syndrome, whereas on the outside of the shin, lateral tibial stress syndrome. Pain on the inside of the shin is generally more common, and is thought to occur due to occur due to inflammation of the muscles, tendons and periosteum (layer of connective tissue between muscle and bone) of the tibia.

Who’s most at risk?

  • Occurs more often in females, this may be due to natural differences in biomechanics due to greater hip width in females.

  • Improper technique, mainly when landing or jumping. It is really important to land and take off through the foot and use your plié.

  • Fatigue can play a role, as this alters our technique and perception of how we are moving.

  • Lack of conditioning; this will tire the muscles and can cause inflammation when we do too much too soon.

  • Wrong footwear. It’s simple but wear the correct shoes to dance the correct style. The wrong footwear will not give adequate support and may cause pain.

  • Previous injury that may limit muscle strength or flexibility, especially around the hips, knees and ankles.

What can I do to help prevent or reduce the chances of shin pain?

Firstly, there are some simple things you should stick to:

  • Always wear the correct shoes and concentrate on your technique.

  • Do not try to make things easier in the short term by doing things badly.

  • When returning to dance, build up the amount of jumping you are doing. Try to start with routines that do not include lots of repetitive jumping and gradually increase jumps and repetition of jumping.

  • If you have had a previous injury, take time to fully rehab the injured area and the parts surrounding it. This will make sure that you are strong and flexible when it comes to supporting your training and performances.

  • Lastly, if you do not already, commence a strengthening program. This should include a variety of exercises to improve plyometric ability, power, straight endurance and flexibility and in the long run, this will help improve your support. If you feel that you need support or advice, contact a physiotherapist for rehab and exercise advice, or a dance specific strength coach.

Can it be more serious?

It is important to be aware that stress fractures or bone stress injuries can occur in the shins. Unlike shin splints where the pain is normally spread over a large area, a stress fracture will normally be painful over a small area, directly on the shin bone. If you are concerned that you are experiencing this, then you should seek medical advice from either a physiotherapist or GP, as depending on how long the pain has been present, different scans or investigations are required.


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