What are Shin Splints?

What are Shin Splints?

 

What are Shin Splints? Shin Splints is a common term used among people to describe a pain in the leg in and around the area of their shin bone. A more specific diagnosis must be made however to successfully treat the symptoms. The traditional clinical use of the term shin splints is to describe medial tibial stress syndrome, pain on the lower inside of the leg. Often people use it as a term to describe pain and swelling of the muscles to the outside of the shin (anterior compartment syndrome) as well.

 

Chronic symptoms of shin splints may lead to stress fractures so symptoms must not be ignored if they continue to persist. Abnormal biomechanics may lead to a greater risk of pain around the shin bone. A high rigid arch effects shock absorption increasing the forces on the bone. In individuals whose arches fall from normal into a flattened position (excessive pronation) overuse, fatigue and excessive pull of the muscles that support the arch can lead to medial tibial stress syndrome, otherwise known as ‘shin splints.’

 

Weakness of the tendons or ankle instability from previous sprains may also contribute to overuse of muscular and tendinous structures leading to shin splints. Tight calf muscles can also lead to shin pain, excessive tightness can prevent normal ankle movement increasing the load on muscles surrounding the shin.

 

A full history and physical examination including biomechanical assessment with reproduction of symptoms is needed to find the true cause of the symptoms, so a progressive rehabilitation programme can be implemented.

 

Treatment may consist of reducing the repetitive training load, stretching and loosening out tight muscles such as the calves and improving strength. If it is a chronic issue, training to improve shock absorption will be required through altering running mechanics. Assessing and treating the origin of the problem is the key to full recovery.

 

Catherine Simpson

MISCP, MSc. Sports Medicine

www.sportsphysioireland.com

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