You may have heard of Shin Splints before and the pain it causes at the front of the legs. You may have even experienced it yourself. These days it has become commonplace to describe any pain occurring in the area of the shins as ‘Shin Splints’, though this is not the case. So what exactly is it and why does it occur? Perform Podiatry talks Shin Splints!
What is Shin Splints?
Shin splints are otherwise referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), meaning great stress to the front and inner side of your tibia (lower leg/shin bone). Without visiting a Podiatrist to get your legs checked, you’ve got to be careful not to mistake Shin Splints for other causes of pain to the lower leg, such as a Stress Fracture along the tibia or Compartment Syndrome. Admittedly, many practitioners still refer to stress fractures as a mechanism of Shin Splints. This is largely because Shin Splints is not a precise condition itself, but includes various mechanisms of injury that result in pain at the shins.
The injury incurred in Shin Splints may include micro-tears to or inflammation of muscles where they attach to the shin bone, the inflammation of a tissue surrounding the shinbone called the periosteum, or a combination of these. When muscles are involved, it tends to be the Tibialis Anterior or Tibialis Posterior. Commonly, stress on the tibia itself is also included as a mechanism of injury in Shin Splints.
Shin Splints have a relatively generalised pain along the front and insides of the shins and tend to feel worse in the morning. This is because soft tissues and musculature originating from the tibia tightens overnight and so has a greater pull in the morning before it stretches out as you walk and the pain may ease. Pain can be felt on walking and running, especially when you lift your foot up and point your toes towards the ground.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin Splints is generally an overuse syndrome where certain activities, circumstances, and intense training schedules place a great amount of force and stress on the muscles and tissues at the shins, to the point of damage. Factors that may contribute to the development of Shin Splints includes:
- Poor muscle flexibility
- Inadequate stretching
- Suddenly increasing training intensity
- Abnormal foot pronation (unsupported flat feet)
- Excessive supination (high arched feet)
- Unsupportive or worn-out shoes
- Favouring one leg while running
The last point is a bit of a given – whether you know it or not, you have a dominant leg/foot just like you have a dominant hand. This is the leg that will tend to climb the first step, that you’ll take a leap with, and that will likely take on significantly more force than the other. This is also the leg that will tend to develop Shin Splints.
What is the treatment for Shin Splints?
The first step to treating Shin Splints is identifying the cause, which for most people involves multiple causes. You’ll need to see your Podiatrist for this so they can analyse the way you walk, run, your foot posture, muscle strength, range of motion available at your joints, and more. Attempting to manage Shin Splints without an assessment means that you may only be addressing a certain suspected contributing factor, such as replacing worn shoes, while missing some main components that will see you continue to struggle with Shin Splints for months.
You can help reduce your initial symptoms of pain and swelling with ice and rest, though this doesn’t address the cause and won’t ‘treat’ the condition or keep the pain permanently settled. Your Podiatrist will create a tailored management plan to suit your symptoms, cause, and your life. They’ll also go through and exclude other causes of shin pain.
If you’re getting pain or discomfort around your shins, or are worried about your feet and legs, come in and see our expert Podiatry team at Perform Podiatry. We are committed to delivering excellence in patient care and your clinical outcomes and want to see you back on your feet and pain-free! Give our team a call on 09 5232333