What is shin splints?
If you’re an avid runner, it is likely that you have heard of, or been affected by shin splints.
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a condition that causes pain specifically at the lower 2/3 of the tibia. To fully understand the condition, some basic anatomy is required:
The lower leg is comprised of two bones; The tibia, which is the weight bearing bone that makes up your shin, and the fibula which sits on the outside of the tibia. The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone, and provides support for muscular attachments within the leg and ankle.
Some of the main muscles of your lower leg:
Tibialis anterior (front of shin)
Tibialis posterior (back of leg)
Gastroc/soleus (known as the 'calves')
What causes shin splints?
Shin splints is primarily an overuse injury and commonly occurs in running and jumping athletes.
Issues generally present themselves due to training errors, meaning an increase in either distance, intensity or duration may lead to an overload in capacity. Other factors which may lead to an increased susceptibility include:
Poor shock absorbing shoes (leading to greater force being exercited on the body)
Running on hard or uneven surfaces
High or low foot arches
Hyperpronation of the foot (flat foot)
Leg length discrepancies
Hypertonicity of adjacent muscle groups e.g. A dysfunction in the tibialis anterior and posterior is commonly linked to shin splints.
Looking closer at a cellular level, increased load through the lower leg causes either the tibialis anterior, posterior or soleus to traction, or pull on the tibia. The microtrauma from repetitive traction leads to periosteal (membranous tissue that covers the surfaces of your bones) inflammation of the tibia. Progression of this condition can lead to stress fractures of the tibia.
How do I know if I have shin splints?
The main symptom is dull pain at the bottom two thirds of your shin, this is felt on the inside border of your shin.
Initially, the shin will be sore to touch after activity and as it progresses the pain will start to occur at the beginning of the activity as well.
As you overload your shin further, without seeking treatment, or a reduction in activity levels, the shin will become sore before, during and after activity.
Your local osteopath (or allied health practitioner of choice), will be able to diagnose shin splints from a detailed history and examination.
What can you do to help?
Reduce your running! As over training is generally the primary cause of this condition, it is vital that a reduction in the aggravating activities occurs.
The use of ice after activity is beneficial to reduce inflammation of the shin and provide some symptomatic relief or try some relieving exercises such as calf raises. See Ady's demonstration below.
Once symptoms are under control, your osteopath will be able to help you with correcting functional gait and biomechanical factors, as well as help you grade your reintroduction into activities, to avoid overloading your body again.
Most patients will recover and be back to full capacity within a 4-12 week period, the large discrepancy in time frame will depend on the severity, chronicity, and adherence to management.
If you believe you may have shin splints, or would like any further information, contact us at Retrain Health to speak with one of our friendly practitioners or book online at www.retrainhealth.com
Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products.
Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage and strength and conditioning, and PT sessions with qualified practitioners.
If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.