What are Shin Splints??

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Shin splints is a term that most of us are aware of but not fully understood! “Shin Splints” is a general term used to describe pain felt on the front of lower leg. Medically this is known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). Although not often serious, it can be a disabling condition and like anything can lead to more serious complications if not treated correctly.

Shin splints/MTSS is an overuse injury or repetitive stress injury along the shin area. Various stress reactions of the shin bone and surrounding muscles will occur when the body is unable to heal correctly due to repetitive stress (eg. Running)

Many believe that the cause of shin splints/MTSS will involve the underlying periostitis of the tibia when it is under strain.(Periosteum = a thin membrane that covers bones and provides a channel for blood supply and nutrients for bone)

Recent studies have shown that it can be due to a dysfunction of some of the muscles including: tibialis posterior, tibilais anterior and soleus muscles may also be involved. The dysfunction of these muscles will cause poor mechanics of the lower leg.

The causes can vary, often are multifactorial that can involve simple training errors and biomechanical abnormalities.

  • Poor Footwear
  • Over training
  • Abnormal foot positioning
  • Decreased hip strength/Stability
  • Tightness in calf muscles

Symptoms:

  • Diffuse pain along the middle-lower shin bone
  • Pain occurs during exertion
  • As symptoms worsen, pain will occur earlier during exercise

Treatment for MTSS will vary from each individual depending on their symptoms. Generally, in most cases the initial treatment will involve unloading the area of pain – this will be REST from any aggravating factors/exercise programmes.

  1. It is important for the periosteum (outer membrane on the bone) to heal before you load it up again. There may need to be an adjustment to the mechanics of the foot, advice on footwear and orthotics may be prescribed.
  2. Tension in the muscles may need to be released through foam rolling/ dry needling/ massage.
  3. In later stages of the rehabilitation and to help from the injury from re-occurring a strengthening programme may need to be tailored to the individual’s need.

For more information on these exercises check out our Blog Post

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