Are Shin Splints hurting your Run?

Posted on: May 18th, 2017 by The Physio Movement | Categories: Sports Medicine & Nutrition

Shin splints (also known as medial tibial stress syndrome) are a common complaint, especially among participants of running sports. The term ‘shin splints’ is colloquially used to describe shin pain along the inside or front edges of the shin.

Shin splints occur by overstraining of your muscles where they attach to your shin.

The symptoms of shin splints include a dull, aching pain in the front of the lower leg. Depending on the exact cause, the pain may be located along either side of the shinbone or in the muscles. The area may be painful to touch.

The most common cause is overuse or overtraining associated with poor foot and leg biomechanics. Shin splints can be caused by a number of factors which are mainly biomechanical (abnormal movement patterns) and errors in training.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Overpronation of your feet
  • Oversupination of your feet
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Increasing your training too quickly
  • Running on hard or angled surfaces
  • Decreased flexibility at your ankle joint
  • Poor knee flexion alignment
  • Poor buttock control at in the stance phase
  • Poor core stability
  • Tight calf muscles, hamstrings
  • Weak quadriceps, foot arch muscles

Generally shin pain arises from a combination of three structures:

  • Muscles
  • Tenoperiosteum
  • Shin bone (tibia)

There are two regions where you can suffer shin splints: anterior and posterior.

There are four stages of an overuse injury, which generally determine how much intervention is required to address the problem. In stage 1, there is discomfort that disappears during the warm-up for activity. At this stage, injury identification and treatment allows continuing activity as long as the injury does not worsen. Professional guidance is recommended to ensure that your condition does not get worse. Stage 2 there is discomfort that may disappear during the warm-up but reappears at the end of activity. At this stage activity may continue at a modified pain-free level while being treated. Treatment must continue until completely healed and professional guidance is highly recommended. At stage 3 discomfort gets worse during the activity. It is at this stage where activity must be immediately ceased and professional guidance is highly recommended. The final stage is pain or discomfort all of the time. All activity must cease immediately and treatment and professional guidance is essential.

As shin splints can lead to other problems if left untreated, such as compartment syndromes and stress fractures, it is best not to just accept these pains as there is generally a underlying biomechanical cause that needs to be addressed for safe participation in activity. Therefore, if you have symptoms similar to this make sure you get in to see a physiotherapist to avoid long term issues related to shin splints.

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