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What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are a common lower limb injury in individuals that partake in running or impact sports. “Shin Splints” is a collective term used to describe a number of conditions that fall under “Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome” (MTSS). Generally shin pain arises from either or a combination of Muscular involvement, Tenoperiosteum (junction where tissue attaches to bone) and/or bone.

There are two areas in which you can experience shin splints:

  1. Anterior Shin Splints (Front)
  2. Posterior Shin Splints (Middle/Rear)

Anterior Shin Splints:
Anterior shin splints are located on the front part of the shin bone and involve the tibialis anterior muscle. The function of the tibialis anterior muscle is to lift and lower your foot. It lifts your foot during the swing phase of a stride, then it slowly lowers your foot to prepare your foot for the standing phase.

Posterior Shin Splints:
Posterior shin splints are located on the inside rear part of the shin bone and involve the tibialis posterior muscle. The function of the tibialis posterior is to lift and control the inside aspect of your foot/arch during the standing phase.

What are the symptoms of shin splints?

The condition commonly presents in both legs at the same time with one leg often being worse than the other. At first, discomfort may only be present at the beginning of exercise and feel to “warm up” during exercise, but then reappear once cooled down after activity. As the condition progresses the pain tends to stay during activity and can be severe, enough to limit the person from continuing activity.
The pain may also last hours after activity at this stage.

Individuals often describe a dull, aching pain in the front, inside aspect of the lower leg and can progress to sharp shooting pains with running and impact.
The inside and front of the shins are often tender to touch and depending on the cause and severity will determine the extent and pain location.

Individuals further often experience a feeling or tight or fatigued calves whilst exercises and may have some associated foot pain.

What increases the risk of shin splints?

  • Females are 2-3 x more likely to develop shin splints compared to Males,
  • Sudden increase in training (frequency, intensity, duration),
  • Insufficient rest between loads
  • Running, impact or sports on hard surfaces,
  • Changes in footwear/inappropriate footwear
  • Foot type
  • Weak/inactive muscles
  • Decreased ankle mobility
  • Biomechanical abnormalities and training errors.

What to do if I have shin splints?

Treatment is dependant on the underlying causes identified by your Physiotherapist. Our Physiotherapists complete a thorough bio-mechanical assessment to determine the cause of your shin splints and further tailor an appropriate individualised rehabilitation program for you. If you are experiencing shin splints that are stopping you from doing what you love, don’t just rest and wait, jump online and book an appointment at Enhance Physiotherapy today.

Take Home Message:

Shin Splints or (MTSS) refers to pain in the front or inside of the shin and is a result of overloading of the bone or muscles in that region. Addressing the issue early is important to prevent it progressing into a more serious grading or bone stress response /fracture injury which requires rest from impact activities such as running.

There are many different causes of Shin Splints and therefore it is important you get assessed by a Physiotherapist to determine the underlying causes and further develop an appropriate rehabilitation program.
A graded running/training program and screening for mobility and muscle imbalances are a great way at reducing the risk of developing this common injury.

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