What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are a common complaint.

The term ‘shin splints’ is a term for Tibial Stress Syndrome and is used to describe shin pain along the inside and/or front of the shin. 

Shin splint pain is typically related to physical activity and shin splints are often associated with running and/or jumping activities.

Any vigorous physical activity can bring on shin splints, especially if you are increasing or starting a new exercise routine.

There are two areas where you can suffer shin splints:

Anterior Shin Splints

Involving the Tibialis Anterior muscle, pain is felt on the front (anterior) and outer side of the shinbone.

Posterior Shin Splints

Involving the Tibialis Posterior muscle, pain is felt on the inner and back (posterior) side of the shinbone.

 

What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints can be caused by a number of contributing factors, which affect the muscles, tendons, shine bone, creating inflammation and stress reactions.

Some common causes of shin splints include:

  • Overuse/overtraining – changes in activity such as increasing frequency (ie number of days you exercise), increasing duration/intensity (ie running longer distances, on hills), insufficient rest between activity
  • Running on hard or uneven surfaces
  • Poor running technique 
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Biomechanics – overpronation of feet, decreased ankle mobility, tight or weak muscles

Other causes of pain in the lower legs could include stress fractures, strains or sprains.

What Are The Symptoms Of Shin Splints?

Shin splints cause a dull, aching pain in the shins/lower leg. The area may be painful and tender to touch.

Pain may be felt: 

  • during warm up only
  • during warm up and at the end of activity
  • worsening through activity
  •  or throughout activity.

 

Shin Splints Treatment

Treatment will involve methods to reduce pain in the early stages, followed by restoring range of motion, length and strength in joints and muscles. Your physiotherapist will guide your gradual return to activity to prevent reoccurrence.

Treatment may include:

  • Ice for pain and swelling
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Massage
  • Dry Needling/Acupuncture
  • Taping to help support injured soft tissue and provide stress reduction
  • Stretching exercises for tight muscles
  • Strengthening exercises for weak muscles
  • Changes to footwear/ orthotics
  • Addressing biomechanic issues
  • Low impact activities (ie swimming or cycling) can maintain fitness without too much demand on your shins
  • Rest from aggravating activity or modified training program and return to sport

Simple Exercises You Can Complete

Toe Walking

Heel Walking

Calf Stretch

If you suspect you have shin splints, consult your physiotherapist for treatment.