The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). It typically develops after increased physical activity. They are often associated with running and sports that include running, jumping and fast changes of direction. Keep in mind any vigorous sports activity can bring on shin splints, especially if you are just starting a fitness program. Taking care not to overdo your exercise routine will help prevent shin splints from coming back.

  • Condition

    The term shin splints (Medial tibial stress syndrome) is a generalized term for painful conditions that effect the lower leg. It is often described as exercise induced pain in the lower leg.

  • Symptoms & Signs

    The most common symptom of shin splints is pain along the border of the tibia. Mild swelling in the area may also occur.

    Shin splint pain may:

    • Be sharp and razor-like or dull and throbbing
    • Occur both during and after exercise
    • Be aggravated by touching the sore spot

  • Treatment

    The reduction of stress to the leg is the basis for treatment of shin splints.

    • Activity modification or reduction.
    • Address biomechanical faults such as overpronation.
    • Use appropriate footwear in good condition
    • Address muscle imbalances or weakness

Symptoms & Cause

Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. Pain typically occurs along the inner border of the tibia, where muscles attach to the bone.

In general, shin splints develop when the muscle and bone tissue (periosteum) in the leg become overworked by repetitive activity.

Shin splints often occur after sudden changes in physical activity. These can be changes in frequency, such as increasing the number of days you exercise each week. Changes in duration and intensity, such as running longer distances or on hills, can also cause shin splints.

Other factors that contribute to shin splints include:

  • Having excessively pronated flat feet or abnormally rigid arches
  • Exercising with improper or worn-out footwear

Diagnosis & Treatment

Activity reduction is important when treating shin splints as they are typically caused by overuse. Lower impact types of aerobic activity can be substituted during your recovery, such as swimming, using a stationary bike, or an elliptical trainer. Use cold packs or an ice machine for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Wearing compression stockings may prevent additional swelling. Be sure to work on stretching your lower leg muscles as this can help reduce your shins pain.

People who have excessively pronated flat feet, gait abnormalities or recurrent problems with shin splints may be prescribed custom foot orthotics to help improve alignment and foot / leg function.

Shin splints usually resolve with rest and the simple treatments described above. Before returning to exercise, you should be pain-free for at least 2 weeks. Keep in mind that when you return to exercise, it must be at a lower level of intensity. You should not be exercising as often as you did before, or for the same length of time.

Be sure to warm up and stretch thoroughly before you exercise while increasing your training slowly. If you start to feel the same pain, stop exercising immediately. Use a cold pack and rest for a day or two. Return to training again at a lower level of intensity. Increase training even more slowly than before.

If you are experiencing leg pain or discomfort, you should consult your physician for a proper diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.

Your doctor may refer you to OKAPED to see a Canadian Certified Pedorthist for Pedorthic management of your shin splints. This may include orthopaedic footwear, shoe selection guidance, orthotics and/or compression therapy. If you know your condition and want to learn about new products and treatments please give us a call.

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