Shin Splints

Shin Splints are a common term for Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). It is a generic term used to describe pain that occurs below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or the inside of the leg (medial shin splints). There is conflicting information among sports scientists with regards etiology, but there are theories on small tears in the muscle that’s pulled off the bone. Others refer to an inflammation of the periosteum (the thin sheath of tissue that wraps around the tibia, or shin bone), an inflammation of the muscle, or some combination of the above.

It often affects runners who do not build their mileage gradually enough or seasoned runners who abruptly change their workout regimen, suddenly adding too much mileage, for example, or switching from running on flat surfaces to hills. Sudden changes might not give the body and muscles enough time to adjust to it.

Shin Splints must not be mistaken by other common and more serious conditions, such as Compartment Syndrome and Stress Fracture.

Compartment Syndrome

  • pain on the anterior part of the lower leg
  • swelling with built up of pressure in lower leg
  • unusual nerve sensations
  • lack of pulse in the leg
  • muscle weakness
  • a medical emergency

Stress Fracture

  • incomplete crack of the bone
  • a more definite spot of pain on the shin bone
  • feels better in the mornings as bone heals over night

What can cause Shin Splints

  • overpronation when running
  • a change in the workout
  • overtraining on hills
  • inadequate stretching
  • worn out trainers
  • umbalanced biomechanics

Symptoms of Shin Splints

  • generalised dull pain on shin, front outside part or inside
  • pain at the beginning of the workout, which then disappears and comes back at the end of the training session

How to Treat Shin Splints

Experts agree that when shin splints strike you should stop running completely or decrease your training depending on the extent and duration of pain. Then, as a first step, ice your shin to reduce inflammation. Gentle stretching programmes and a visit to your local physiotherapist or osteopath can prove helpful as they will be able to diagnose if you have Shin Splints or not. They will also help you with treatments and with advice as to what you should and should not be doing.

Here are some more tips of what you could try before seeing your therapist.

  • gently stretch your Achilles if you have medial shin splints, and your calves if you have anterior shin splints
  • alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of regular walking
  • If you continue running, wear compression leggings on your lower
  • cross-training: swim, run in the pool or cycle
  • when returning to running, increase your mileage slowly
  • have adequate trainers
  • avoid hills and excessively hard surfaces until shin pain goes away completely; re-introduce them gradually to prevent a recurrence