Shin Splints or Shin Pain

Shin Splints or Shin Pain. So you’ve just started exercising again, it’s been a while since you’ve done this but feel it’s time to get fit and active again and start running a couple of times per week. Not long after you start your new health kick you start to develop shin pain. Does this sound like you?

Shin splints are one of the most common injuries amongst runners or sports people and is also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome. Shin splints are the common term used to describe pain along the front inside or medial section of the shin or lower leg.

What is it?

Shin splints are a very common overuse injury. Tightness and tenderness that occurs with activities such as walking or running can be quite debilitating and prevent you from participating in these activities. Excessive force and overuse of the muscles and tendons along the shin causes this shin pain.  Shin splints often present when activity levels are increased above your current levels, therefore your muscles and tendons are not conditioned for this level of stress.

What causes it?

  • Overuse – this is one of the most common causes – exercising too hard or beyond your current levels can strain muscles, tendons and bones.
  • Flat Feet (Over pronated feet) – a flat foot or a foot that over pronates (rolls in too much) can also place excessive stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and bones of the lower leg.
  • High impact activities – running on hard or uneven surfaces can contribute to shin pain – activities like netball, football and basketball are some of the more common.
  • Footwear – Incorrect footwear without the right amount of support or cushioning can also contribute to shin pain.

What does it feel like?

The signs and symptoms of shin splints can include:

  • Aching and pain along the line of the shin bone
  • The pain may be felt before, during or after activity
  • The area is tender and sore to touch
  • Occasionally the overlying skin may be red and inflamed

What can you do to manage it?

Early treatment and management of shin splints results in a much more successful outcome. If you think these symptoms are similar to the ones you are experiencing, you should seek treatment from your podiatrist as soon as possible. Conservative treatment options are used to aid the management of shin splints, common treatments:

  • Activity modification – reassessing you training program
  • Stretching exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory strategies – Massage and Ice
  • Changes your footwear
  • Taping or Strapping
  • Orthotics my be required to improve your foot position or function

What should you avoid doing?

You should avoid training on hard surfaces and choose flat, softer surfaces to run on or even low impact cross training alternatives such as swimming and cycling. Avoid training without conducting a proper warm up; warming up before your activity, including stretching, is very important to increase blood flow and flexibility in the calf and lower leg stabilising muscles. Rest is always important, do not attempt to train through the pain hoping it will resolve on its own.

Management:

Your podiatrist will provide you with a thorough assessment of your shin splints to accurately diagnose the condition and rule out any differential diagnoses. In developing your management plan, your podiatrist will use a combination of therapies including ice, massage, taping techniques and stretches as well as a return to activity program. An assessment of your footwear and orthotic therapy may also be warranted in the treatment on shin splints.