Daily Life


Researchers use sound waves to treat shin splints

IT IS A painful condition, which plagues runners, but an effective treatment could be within reach, a Canberra researcher says.

Phillip Newman developed an interest in shin splints while he was working for the military.

About one in three professional and amateur runners, including soldiers, suffer from the condition, which causes pain in the lower leg and can put athletes out of action for months.

So when Mr Newman became a PhD student at the University of Canberra he decided to set about finding a treatment.

Mr Newman said shockwave therapy was being used as an effective treatment for tendon injuries in feet and shoulders, so it may be the answer to shin splints too.

He said shock wave therapy worked by sending sound waves into the leg, prompting a healing reaction in the bone.


''It's an irritant, so it stimulates the cells to enter their healing phase,'' he said. ''There are a number of conditions, and this is one of them, where the healing process seems to have stalled, it's burned itself out, so the sound waves tend to restart that healing process.''

The treatment team holds a cylindrical instrument at the site of the tenderness during treatment and adjusts the level of intensity if the patient feels uncomfortable.

Other studies had shown it to be successful, but they were carried out without a placebo, whereas his coming trial of 60 people would be more rigorous.

''We're looking to improve the design of those studies so we have the highest level of evidence possible,'' he said.

Mr Newman expects shock wave therapy will be widely used as the price of equipment drops.