Shin Splints is a common term for medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It is an injury caused by overuse and ‘doing too much too soon’. MTSS is the inflammation of the periosteum of the tibia (the sheath surrounding the bone). Individuals doing high impact activities such as running, jumping, netball and football are more prone to this injury.
Not all pain in the anterior lower leg is MTSS; other common lower leg injuries include Anterior Compartment Syndrome, Stress Fracture and Tibalis Anterior Tendonopathy. These can be assessed and diagnosed by your health professional.
- Pain and tenderness over the medial lower half of the shinbone, usually 3- 12cm up from the ankle.
- Pain increases with exercise
So what has caused this injury?
When the muscles are put under more stress than they able to cope with, they lose their ability to shock absorb which therefore, increases stress on the body. Players returning to sport after a period of rest or large increases in training increase the risk of developing this injury. Tight muscles including the gastrocnemius and soleus (calf) muscles can cause tractional forces on the periosteum causing inflammation and pain. Poor foot biomechanics with excessive pronation or supination can also alter stresses on the lower leg. Females are also more prone to this injury.
You should always consult your health professional to ensure a speedy recovery and get you performing at your best. Here is some advice for management of shin splints:
- RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation to reduce pain and inflammation
- Decreasing activity and replace with non-weightbearing exercises (swimming, cycling, water running)
- Stretching –gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis posterior
- Improve shock absorption in shoes
- Correct foot, ankle and leg alignment with orthotics and taping
- Running on softer surfaces
- Heat area before training to increase blood flow to the area
- Gradual return to sport after injury
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