The term shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome or medial tibial tenoperiostitis refers to a painful condition that develops along the inside (medial edge) of the shin (tibia). The usual location of shin pain is along the lower half of the shin (tibia), anywhere from a few inches above the ankle to about halfway up the shin. Shin splints can however, effect just about any part of the lower leg.
Shin splints are generally brought about by physical activity or a change in activity such as increasing the distance of a daily run. A biomechanical explanation can usually be found to be the cause. Running on hard surfaces with improper footwear can cause this condition. Shin splints can be categorised into musculature (more common) and bony changes (less common).
One main reason why shin splints occur is due to poor mechanics of the foot with respect to the leg. This can result from muscles that originate in the leg being overworked and fatigued during activities. Pains in the shin can also be due to bony changes which result from poor shock absorption during activities. Shin splints can also be cuased by overpronation and oversupination of your feet, poor knee flexion and poor core stability.
It is important to assess the biomechanics of the lower limb and foot to determine any factors that may predispose you to poor shock absorption or musculature imbalance.
An in depth analysis is required to assess foot motion with respect to the lower limb, along with assessing range of motion to determine any muscle tightness. The biomechanical observations can give clues to whether any of the muscles are being overworked or fatigued.
Podiatrists are the primary health care professionals for the lower limbs, and are able to treat shin splints effectively. Podiatry treatment includes realigning the foot with respect to the leg to improve the efficiency of mechanics. This inturn reduces the abnormal forces to the respective muscle groups along with better shock absorption. This can all be achieved by:
- Appropriate stretches
- Footwear advice
- Soft full-length CAD/CAM orthotics
- advise on activities and training program
Initial treatment for shin splints can include:
- Ice the affected area for 10 – 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day
- Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.