The Lowdown on Shin Splints

Shin splints are common. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or have recently taken up running, you may be experiencing pain on the front or inside of your shin. This could be a condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTTS), more commonly known as shin splints.

What are shin splints (MTTS)?

‘Shin splints’ is an overuse injury that is commonly seen in runners and athletes who perform a large amount of jumping movements. It is described as pain on the lower aspect of the medial (inside) or anterior (front) part of the shinbone, which is called your Tibia.

How do shin splints happen?

Shin splints is a bone stress injury that occurs when the amount of load that is put through the shinbone exceeds its capacity to tolerate the load – to the point where it becomes painful. Usually this happens when there is a sharp increase in your activity over a short period of time without enough recovery periods in order for your body to adapt. It can also happen when there is an accumulation of load over time that eventually exceeds your shin’s capacity to be able to withstand the load on it.

What is load and capacity?

When we talk about load, we are talking about things like the duration, intensity and volume of running that you do; the surface you are running on; whether there is a change in the type of activity you are performing or even change in footwear. Capacity indicates the overall strength of your calf and shin muscles, the tightness in these muscles, and the range of movement in your ankle joint.

Symptoms of shin splints

  • Pain over the distal two thirds of the shinbone that extends over a few centimetres
  • Tender to touch, especially after completing aggravating activity or exercise
  • Pain gets worse with an increase of activity
  • Possible pain in the shin at night or while resting

Factors that contribute to shin splints

  • Being female
  • Being overweight
  • A poor diet
  • Weak calf muscles
  • Previous history of bone stress injuries
  • Big spikes in training load
  • Not having enough rest or recovery

How to treat shin splints

If shin splints are not identified and treated accordingly, they could progress into a stress fracture – a serious condition where the bone gets to the point where it cannot handle any further stress and creates a fracture in the bone. This means it is crucial to identify the onset of shin splints and treat it effectively.

Here is what you should do if you think you have shin splints:

  1. Reduce/manage your load by reducing the volume/intensity/duration that you are running
  2. Increase your capacity by improving ankle range of movement, releasing tension in the tight muscles around the shin, and strengthening the muscles around the shin
  3. Prepare your joints and muscles as much as possible prior to running e.g. having appropriate warm ups and cool downs.

At ISO Physiotherapy, we can diagnose the condition, provide pain management strategies, and develop an individualised and specific management plan that will allow you to work comfortably and continue participating in the activities you love doing.

If you are experiencing further issues with your shin pain, don’t hesitate to book in a consultation or give us a call at the clinic.

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