Shin Splints: what is it?
Shin splints is a condition where the muscle(s) in the lower leg is overloaded. Pain is felt both in the muscle and along the attachment of the muscle to the shin bone. The two muscles most commonly affected together with the shin bone are the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior. These two muscles act to help raise the arch on the medial side of the foot.
How did I get it?
The cause of shin splints can be multi-factorial. The pain is caused by the muscle tugging at the attachment to the tibia as it tries to resist the downward movement of the medial arch of the foot that occurs during gait. This is especially so when your foot posture is one of over pronation. The repetitive stress causes the bone to become inflamed. So anything that contributes to the tugging of the muscles on the shin bone increases the likelihood of shin splints. It most commonly occurs after a sudden increase in running duration or frequency because the muscles in the leg have not had time to adapt to the stress. Other factors that contribute to the condition are:
- poor biomechanics, such as over or under pronation
- poor footwear for your foot type
- running downhill or on hard or cambered surfaces.
What does it feel like?
The pain from shin splints can be severe. You may feel pain on either the inside or outside of the shin bone. Pain may be present when palpating but commonly the pain is most prominent upon resumption of running, or walking depending on the severity of the inflammation, after a short break. It may take a few days for the pain to subside before you can resume running.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made by taking a complete history of the circumstances leading up to the onset of pain and by clinical signs such as palpation of the shin bone. Other conditions with similar symptoms, such as stress fractures of the shin, need to be assessed and ruled out.
How do I fix it?
- Rest from the aggravating activity will help relieve the pain.
- Ice to the shin bone on either the medial or lateral side depending on which side is the most tender.
- If over or under pronation is a factor in the onset of the pain, then an orthotic arch support and good shoe will help to offload the muscle while the shin recovers.
- Massage of the muscle will help with any myofascial pain.
Will I need surgery?
Surgery is not indicated for shin splints
How do I stop it coming back?
Before you commence any new activities make sure that you select the proper footwear for your foot type. You may need to have your foot assessed if you know that you have some issues with your foot structure such as over pronation or have had similar issues in the past. Have a graduated approach to training and start out slow. As a general guide adding 10 percent more to your next training session is a sensible way to allow you body to adapt to increased loads.