What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) are a common cause of leg pain in athletes. Shin splints are a result of connective muscle tissue in the lower leg becoming inflamed and causing pain. Shin splints that are left untreated for a long period of time can progress to tibial stress fractures.
What causes Shin Splints?
Over-pronation (or excessive rolling in) of the foot is a common cause of shin splints, which is why people with flat feet are particularly prone to developing shin splints. Over-pronation causes the tibia to twist and the muscles in the lower leg to overstretch, which can result in inflammation of the soft tissues that attach to the tibia, at the origin of several leg muscles. Poor functioning of the muscles that act to dorsiflex the ankle is also a factor that can cause shin splints.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of shin splints include:
- Tightness in the calf muscles (this can cause further pronation)
- Muscle weakness, particularly of the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior muscles
- Increasing intensity and duration of activity too quickly (beginner runners are particularly prone to shin splints)
- Improper or ‘worn-out’ footwear
- Running on inclines, uneven terrain or hard surfaces
Do I have Shin Splints?
If you have shin splints you will usually feel pain or tenderness on the inside of the shin (medial) or on the front of the shin (anterior). If you are a runner, you will probably notice pain is worst at the start of a run and may disappear during the run as your muscles loosen up. However in more severe cases, the pain may not ease and you may also notice symptoms during other weight bearing activities such as walking and climbing stairs.
What is the treatment for Shin Splints?
Initial treatment for shin splints is rest. If you are a runner, it is recommended that you either cease or reduce your running distance and intensity, or alternatively change your mode of exercise (for example, to cycling or deep water running). Ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can also assist to reduce inflammation.
A biomechanical assessment by a podiatrist can assess whether your feet roll in or over-pronate, which is often a contributory factor to shin splints. To reduce over-pronation, total contact orthotics offer the most effective solution to optimise your foot function and reduce further stress on the muscles of the lower leg. Appropriate and supportive footwear is also important and a podiatrist will be able to advise on the best footwear to suit your foot type.
How can I prevent Shin Splints?
Read our top tips for preventing shin splints.
For more information about treatment and prevention of shin splints, call 1800-4-ENTIRE or book an appointment online.