Are You at Risk for Shin Splints?


English: DEERWOOD, Md. (Feb. 7, 2009) Lt. j.g....

English: DEERWOOD, Md. (Feb. 7, 2009) Lt. j.g. Gina Shaw treats shin splints by wrapping her leg in ice after her 8 Kilometer run after competing in the 2009 Armed Forces Cross Country Championship. The women’s cross-country team finished second behind the Air Force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jhi L. Scott/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A common complaint among runners is Shin Splints.  In all honesty, this type of injury happens to more than just runners.  Anyone who has a mild to major increase in activity level is susceptible to shin splints. Shin splints (medically known as Medial Tibial Distress Syndrome) can limit the amount of activity a person can do.  If you have ever had shin splints before, you know exactly what I am talking about.  The pain is excruciating!  So now that the summer is coming to an end, maybe you are trying to increase your amount of activity before the clouds and storms come in representing the change in seasons.

Some factors that increase your risk to shin splints are:

  • Improper footwear
  • Overpronation of the foot/ankle
  • Muscular weakness
  • Muscular tightness
  • Decrease joint mobility
  • Poor training quality/form
  • High foot arches

I am sure that everyone can fit into this list in at least one category.  I know that I fit into at least two fo them.  Does that mean you will get shin splints?  No!  Does it mean you should address pain in the front of your lower leg (shin) if you have it?  Yes, of course!  Here are a few tips to help avoid shin splints

  • Try to stay on softer surfaces for running
  • Replace running shoes around 300-400 miles
  • Limit distance increases to 10% or less each week
  • Include lower impact activities (cycling, elliptical, rowing, swimming, etc.)
  • Stretch the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus)

If you do get shin splints, Advantage PT therapists can help get you back to full training faster!!  Email us with any questions (


Knee Pain

Leave a comment

Upon returning to exercise, it is common to feel pain in the front of the knee just below the knee cap (patella).  This is a very common complaint among my friends and in my practice.  In physical therapy and orthopedics, this type of pain is generally referred to as patellofemoral pain.  It is related to the way the patella tracks in the femoral groove.  There are many reasons for this to occur:

English: Right knee.

English: Right knee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Weakness of the hip abductors
  • Tightness of the illiotibial band (IT Band)
  • Poor foot control
  • Tightness of the lower extremity musculature (hamstring, quadriceps, and gastroc-soleus complex)
  • Poor form in exercise

Because there are many causes for this anterior knee pain, it is important to get a proper and correct diagnosis from a physical therapist.  If you have pain in the front of your knee, your physical therapist can design a program to help you beat the pain and return to your exercise program.

This month’s Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach has an article that talks about how exercise (done properly) is the best intervention for patellofemoral pain. (Read the Abstract here)

In my practice, I find that a majority of patients require training of the gluteus medius, which is the major hip abductor muscle.  This muscle can become weak due to positioning of the leg during exercise.  If you look at your feet when they move, are they turned outward?  If so, this is the body’s way of compensating for a weak gluteus medius, and forces the tensor fascia latae (TFL) and ITB to do a lot of the work, thus changing the position and angle of the knee bending during gait and squatting/lunging movements.

Here are a few exercises that can be performed to target and strengthen the gluteus medius:


Sidelying Hip Abduction:


Bridging with Band:


Single Leg Balance:


Wall Slides/Squats:


It is important to remember that, although these exercises may help your knee symptoms, a physical therapist can help treat the cause and individualize a program for you.  Please contact Advantage Physical Therapy to set up an appointment!!!

Low Back Pain Statistics


Many of my friends and family, and even myself, have experienced some sort of low back pain.  As a PT, they all ask me “What can you do to fix my back?”  This is always a tough question.  Sure, there are some exercises that will usually help the majority of the population, but each back issue has a root cause that needs to be addressed.  Finding the cause of the back pain by using a thorough history and examination is how physical therapists can design a treatment plan for each INDIVIDUAL.

The vertebral column - Anatomy Français : La c...

The vertebral column - Anatomy Français : La colonne vertébrale - Anatomie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this year, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) performed a survey about low back pain.  The results of this survey were very telling.  Here are a few of the key points:

  • 61% of Americans experience some form of low back pain
  • 69% of people with low back pain say it affects some part of their lives (exercise, sleep, and work lead these answers)
  • Men are more likely than women to say back pain affects their ability to work
  • 72% of people with back pain use pain medication to relieve symptoms
  • 55% of low back pain sufferers use heat and/or cold packs for relief

If you are interested in looking more into these numbers from the survey, here is an infographic produced from the APTA

You may or may not know, that most states allow you to see a physical therapist without a prescription.  In Washington State, most insurance companies do allow for and cover direct access to physical therapy services.  Physical therapy can provide exercises for both increased range of motion and spinal stabilization, manual therapy to increase joint mobility and release soft tissue tightness, electric stimulation to help with the pain, ultrasound to help with inflammation, and ice or heat to help treat your symptoms.

It is IMPORTANT to note that proper exercises and stretching can help to prevent lower back pain.  We at Advantage Physical Therapy are always happy to help diagnose and treat your back problems.


Happy Thanksgiving!!

Leave a comment

A slice of homemade Thanksgiving pumpkin pie s...
Image via Wikipedia

The staff at Advantage Physical Therapy would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!!

This time of year can be very stressful and painful for everyone.  There are two big events happening this week.  Thanksgiving on Thursday, and Black Friday on Friday.

Let’s start with some tips for making it through Thanksgiving:

1.  When you are in the kitchen, try to use good form when working:

  • Stand upright when chopping and/or carving
  • Use your legs when getting into and out of the oven or refrigerator
  • Take breaks if you feel pain

2. When it’s meal time:

  • Pace your eating, you don’t have to eat everything.  Try to enjoy some conversation
  • Try and use good posture when sitting
  • Stand up and move around every 20-30 minutes (you can refill your drink, check on the football games, etc.)

On Black Friday, the malls will be a mad dash.  I can’t believe that some of the stores are even opening up at midnight Thursday night (or Friday morning)!!!  Here are a few tips to stay safe while doing your holiday shopping:

1.  Try to limit your load:

  • Carrying heavy items can cause you to move with poor spinal control and positioning
  • It’s okay to make several trips to the car (this might even burn off some Thanksgiving dinner calories

2.  If you can’t limit your load (i.e. heavy items like TVs and computers):

  • Try and get a store employee to help you
  • If that isn’t possible try to limit the distance you have to carry the item
  • Carry the item as close to midline as possible (keep it close to your belly button

On the lighter side:

Everyone has different traditions for Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, my family goes to my aunt and uncle’s home for a late lunch/early dinner.  We all watch some football on TV, catch up with the cousins, and for the last 7 years we have been adding some children to the mix.  It is always nice to see family.  But we can’t forget eating some turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

Since high school, I have played football on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The game changes every year.  It used to be a bunch of us around the same age, but that crowd has quieted down and now we challenge some of the college aged kids to some flag football.

Go ahead and leave a comment of some of your favorite traditions for the holidays.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!!!


Yoga for Chronic Back Pain

Leave a comment

Image by Kerala Tourism via Flickr

Most of us have had at least one episode of low back pain.  I remember, in PT school, our instructor would ask if anyone has ever had back pain and all but one person out of 60 would raise their hand up.  Now I have never had debilitating back pain before, usually I can fix any symptoms I have with a change in position or some stretching.

Friends and family often ask me “what should I do for my back pain?” I usually reply by asking what makes it worse and trying to get a fix on a cause. Last week, an interesting article grabbed my attention  from the PT in Motion website in regards to treating chronic back pain.

The article talked about a recent research study published on November 1st, 2011 in Annuals of Internal Medicine. This article talked about the study and how it showed that people who participated in a 3-month yoga program saw greater improvements in back function than usual care for patients who had/have chronic low back pain.  Now, it is important to note that in this study, all participants had, at a minimum, “usual care.” Everyone in the study showed improvements in the standardized tests that represent disability, pain, and general health, but by adding a yoga class approximately once a week, patients showed slightly more improvements.  You can click here to read the post on PT in Motion.


Happy Halloween

Leave a comment

Trick or Treat!  Be safe out there.

Many lower extremity ailments (plantar fasciitis, patello-femoral pain, IT Band syndrome, etc.) are due to a weakness in the hip abductor muscles. A good number of my patients can get rid of the symptoms of their lower extremety pain by strengthening the hip abductors.  While many exercises are good for this, Monster Walks are perfect for Halloween!  So as you go around trick or treating think of performing this exercise to help with some of the lower extremity pain.

Monster Walks:

To perform this exercise, you will need some sort of looped resistance band. Each color is a different resistance level.

To perform this exercise:

  • Put the band around your ankles and perform a partial squat like the gentleman in the picture.
  • Walk sideways 10 feet to the right and then 10 fee to the left.
  • It is important to keep your toes pointing forward and to keep the squat position

Remember that all exercises must be performed in moderation.

If your pain gets worse, discontinue the exercise immediately.

We hope that you enjoy your Halloween, and remember that if you do have any lower extremity pain, your physical therapist may be able to help alleviate your pain.