The term "shin splints" refers to pain along the shin bone (tibia) — the large bone in the front of your lower leg. Shin splints are common in runners, dancers, and military/police recruits.
Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints often occur in athletes who have recently intensified or changed their training routines. The increased activity overworks the muscles, tendons and bone tissue.
Most cases of shin splints can be treated with rest, ice and other self-care measures. Wearing proper footwear and modifying your exercise routine can help prevent shin splints from recurring.
If you have shin splints, you might notice tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner side of your shinbone and mild swelling in your lower leg. At first, the pain might stop when you stop exercising. Eventually, however, the pain can be continuous and might progress to a stress reaction or stress fracture.
Shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. The pain associated with shin splints results from excessive amounts of force on the shin bone and the tissues attaching the shin bone to the muscles surrounding it.
Excessive force causes muscles to swell and this increases the pressure against the bone, leading to pain and inflammation
You are more at risk of shin splints if:
1. You are a runner, especially one beginning a running program
2. You suddenly increase the duration, frequency, or intensity of exercise
3. You run on uneven terrain, such as hills, or hard surfaces, such as concrete
4. You are in military/police training
5. You have flat feet or high arches
Physio for Shin Splints
What are Symptoms of shin splints?
People with shin splints will experience some of the following symptoms:
- a dull ache in the front part of the lower leg
- pain that develops during exercise
- pain on either side of the shin bone
- muscle pain
- pain along the inner part of the lower leg
- tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg
- swelling in the lower leg (usually mild if present)
- numbness and weakness in the feet
- severe pain in your shin after a fall or accident
- a shin that feels hot
- a shin that is visibly swollen
- pain in your shins even when you are resting.
How are shin splints diagnosed?
Shin splints is diagnosed via physical examination and evaluation of your medical history. The physiotherapists will take notes about your training schedule, workplace activities, and may also want to know whether you have recently begun a new exercise regime that requires running or jumping.
The physical examination allows us to see exactly where your leg hurts. We may move your ankle in different positions and have you hold your foot against applied pressure. By stretching the tibialis muscles, and by feeling where these muscles attach on the tibia, we can begin to tell where the problem is.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
Common symptoms include mild pain on the bottom of the heel, especially when taking your first steps of the day. Often, symptoms improve only to worsen later in the day. This happens due to over-stressing of the plantar fascia causing a chronic healing response at the attachment to the bone that may remain sore for months.
How is Shin splint treated?
Like many degenerative conditions, it is caused by wear and tear of the fibers of the fascia. One of the most common causes, is a strain to the tissue due to a specific activity combined with improper or inadequate flexibility of the Achilles tendon and the calf muscle. Other causes include a pinched nerve in the heel region, thinning of the heel fat pad, or a stress fracture of the heel bone.
When should you see the physiotherapist?
The treatment focuses on reduction of inflammation and pain relief. Patients suffering from shin splints receive Ultrasound treatments, effective in halting pain and inflammation. To speed your recovery the physiotherapists may also use deep tissue release technique along the junction where the sore tibialis muscle meets the tibia, followed by gentle stretching of the calf and tibialis muscles.
We will evaluate your posture and alignment to see if you have problems with pronation (arch flattening), a condition that we commonly see associated with posterior shin splints. Sometimes a small heel wedge, placed under the inside edge of the heel, is enough to ease tension on the posterior tibialis muscle. For more severe problems of pronation, we may recommend foot orthotics to support the arch and reduce stresses on the posterior tibialis muscle.
How long is the shin splint treatment?
The length of the physiotherapy program varies for each patient depending on unique and individual characteristics of the condition but as a guideline you might expect four to six weeks to your recovery and rehabilitation.
How can shin splints can prevented?
- Analyze your movement. A formal video analysis of your running technique can help to identify movement patterns that can contribute to shin splints. In many cases, a slight change in your running can help decrease your risk.
- Avoid overdoing. Too much running or other high-impact activity performed for too long at too high an intensity can overload the shins.
- Choose the right shoes. If you're a runner, replace your shoes about every 350 to 500 miles (560 to 800 kilometers).
- Consider arch supports. Arch supports can help prevent the pain of shin splints, especially if you have flat arches.
- Consider shock-absorbing insoles. They might reduce shin splint symptoms and prevent recurrence.
- Lessen the impact. Cross-train with a sport that places less impact on your shins, such as swimming, walking or biking. Remember to start new activities slowly. Increase time and intensity gradually.
- Add strength training to your workout. Exercises to strengthen and stabilize your legs, ankles, hips and core can help prepare your legs to deal with high-impact sports.