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Understanding Shin Splints: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), is a common condition that affects many athletes, particularly runners and those involved in high-impact sports. It manifests as pain along the inner edge of the lower portion of the shinbone (tibia) and can be both debilitating and frustrating for those who experience it. In this blog post, we will delve into what shin splints are, their causes, symptoms, and the best ways to treat and prevent them.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints refer to pain and inflammation along the tibia, the large bone in the front of the lower leg. This condition arises from repeated stress and strain on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach muscles to it. While shin splints are not typically serious, they can lead to more severe issues if left untreated, such as stress fractures.

Shin Splints Diagram. Femur, Patella, Fibula, Tibia. Pain site of the Posterior Medial Shin Splint (LEFT). Pain site of the Anterior Shin Splint (RIGHT). Shin Splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).

Causes of Shin Splints

Several factors can contribute to the development of shin splints, including:

Overuse: Engaging in intense physical activity, especially activities that involve repetitive impact on the legs, such as running, can cause shin splints. This is particularly common in individuals who suddenly increase the duration, frequency, or intensity of their workouts.

Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes that lack proper support or cushioning can place extra strain on your legs and feet, leading to shin splints.

Flat Feet or High Arches: Biomechanical issues like flat feet (overpronation) or high arches can alter the way weight is distributed across your feet during physical activity, increasing the risk of shin splints.

Poor Training Surfaces: Running on hard or uneven surfaces can exacerbate the stress on your shins, contributing to the development of shin splints.

Weak or Tight Muscles: Weakness or tightness in the calf muscles can also play a role, as these muscles support and stabilise the lower leg during movement.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

The hallmark symptom of shin splints is a sharp or dull aching pain along the inner side of the shinbone. This pain may:

  • Be more intense at the beginning of a workout and gradually subside as you continue exercising, only to return afterward.
  • Worsen when you press on the affected area.
  • Persist even during periods of rest in more severe cases.

Treatment and Prevention

Addressing shin splints involves a combination of rest, therapy, and preventive measures. Here are some effective strategies:

Rest and Recovery: The most crucial step in treating shin splints is to reduce or temporarily stop the activities that cause pain. Allow your legs to heal by giving them adequate rest.

Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Compression and Elevation: Wearing compression sleeves or bandages and elevating your legs can also assist in reducing swelling and pain.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Incorporating exercises that stretch and strengthen the calf muscles and the muscles around the shin can improve flexibility and support. Focus on exercises like toe raises, calf stretches, and resistance band workouts.

Proper Footwear: Invest in shoes that offer good arch support and cushioning. Orthotic inserts can also help if you have flat feet or high arches.

Gradual Training Progression: Avoid sudden increases in the intensity or duration of your workouts. Gradually build up your activity level to give your body time to adapt.

Cross-Training: Engage in low-impact activities like swimming or cycling to maintain fitness without putting excessive stress on your shins.

Shockwave Therapy: Shockwave therapy is best suited for chronic pain (pain that has been present for 6 weeks or longer). Once your podiatrist has an understanding of the extent of your pain or problem, they will be able to advise whether shockwave therapy is the best course of treatment or not.


When to See a Podiatrist

While most cases of shin splints can be managed with at-home care and preventive measures, persistent or severe pain warrants a visit to a podiatrist. A podiatrist can provide a thorough evaluation, offer customised treatment plans, and recommend orthotic devices if necessary. They can also help identify any underlying biomechanical issues contributing to the problem.

Conclusion

Shin splints are a common yet manageable condition that affects many athletes and active individuals. By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and adopting effective treatment and preventive measures, you can keep shin splints at bay and continue to enjoy your favourite activities pain-free. If you’re struggling with shin splints or have concerns about your foot health, don’t hesitate to reach out to a podiatrist for professional guidance and support.

Suffering from shin pain? BOOK AN APPOINTMENT ONLINE with us now, or call to book on 9480 4935 – our friendly Podiatrists at Talaria can help!

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