What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints, or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), refers to pain felt along the shinbone (tibia) at the front of the lower leg. This is not the only possible cause of pain in this region, so it’s important to consult your Doctor, Podiatrist or Physiotherapist if you have concerns.
What causes Shin Splints?
There are several causes of Shin Splints, including:
- Poor running technique
- Flat feet or high arches
- High impact activities, such as running on hard or uneven surfaces
- Wearing the wrong kind of shoes during exercise
What are risk factors for Shin Splints?
Risk factors for developing Shin Splints include:
- A sudden increase in activity
- Running, particularly on hard surfaces such as asphalt or on uneven terrain
- Sports with sudden stops and starts
- Flat feet or high arches
How do Shin Splints present?
Symptoms of Shin Splints include:
- Sensitivity to touch along the front of the lower leg
- Red and inflamed skin over the area
- Pain along the shin bone, usually felt before, during or after running
How are Shin Splints diagnosed?
Shin Splints are usually diagnosed based on a clinical examination. In some cases, imaging can be useful to rule out other possible causes for your pain, including stress fractures.
How are Shin Splints treated?
Treatment of Shin Splints will depend on the severity of the condition. Your Physiotherapist will likely recommend changes to your exercise program. Usually this will involve resting from activity for a period of time, before gradually returning to your normal levels of activity. They may also recommend a change to your footwear or orthotics. Releasing the muscles at the front of the lower leg with massage or dry needling can reduce pain and inflammation. Your Physiotherapist can also provide education on how to avoid Shin Splints in the future.
Are there home remedies for Shin Splints?
Management of Shin Splints at home includes:
- Resting as much as possible. Avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms
- Applying an icepack to the affected area several times daily, including after exercise
- Perform low impact activities while recovering, including cycling, swimming or walking
- Anti-inflammatories and other over-the-counter pain relief under the direction of your doctor
What is the prognosis for Shin Splints?
With proper management, you can fully recover from Shin Splints, however if they are left untreated, you may develop more serious injuries such as stress fractures of the Tibia. Shin Splints may return if the underlying cause of the condition has not been treated.
Can Shin Splints be prevented?
The following are ways to reduce the risk of developing Shin Splints:
- Include warm up and cool down phases in your workouts
- Run on flat, soft surfaces such as grassy ovals
- Stretch before exercise
- Wear well fitted running shoes and replace them before they wear out
- Choose low impact exercises such as bike-riding, swimming or walking