The term ‘shin splints’ refers to pain felt around the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). You may also have heard the phrase medial tibial stress syndrome used by your doctors. This is another term for shin splints. Shin splints are highly prevalent in the sporting population and specifically athletes who engage in repetitive activities such as running/jumping sports. Shin splints often also occur after sharp changes in physical load, such as someone who’s just started a running program.
- Dull ache or sharp pain or along inside of shinbone
- Occurs both during and after exercise.
- Possible swelling
- Can be painful to touch.
There are 3 main causes of shin pain listed below.
The most common type of shin pain and occurs due to repetitive pulling of the muscles on the soft tissue that covers your shinbone. This can cause an inflammatory response and small tears, which lead to shin pain. In mild cases, pain is often worse after activity but can settle with rest. This can become more severe, leading to constant shin pain if left untreated.
- Stress Fractures
If symptoms are left unattended the constant stress on the tibia (shinbone) can lead to a small fracture of the tibia. This is what’s known as a stress fracture. Symptoms are like a tendinopathy but are often more severe and can lead to night pains and the inability to participate in physical activity altogether.
- Chronic Compartment Syndrome
This condition is uncommon but can be mistaken for shin splints. The muscles of the shin expand during physical activity and can become wrapped too tightly within the fascial compartment. This causes reduced blood flow to the area which can lead to severe pain. The pain usually resolves with rest but returns once activity is resumed. There are medical tests to measure the pressure of the compartment under duress.
If you’re unsure how to deal with your shin pain, then early intervention with a practitioner is always recommended. Your therapist can help with a multi-faceted approach that involves modifying painful activities, strength/stretching exercises, and hands-on therapy to help alleviate your symptoms. Podiatry can also be helpful in assessing your footwear needs and running technique. If you have any queries, please contact us at HTC so we can help.