We’ve probably all heard of shin splints: many of us are probably even unlucky enough to have had it. However, many people don’t fully understand what it is and the cause of it. 

What is shin splints? 

AKA medial tibial stress syndrome (catchy), this refers to a pain felt around the shin bone (tibia) running along the front of your lower leg. While anyone can get this condition, it’s more common in a lot of sports but in particular those which involve running. Although painful and uncomfortable, it’s not a serious condition. In general, it tends to subside in a matter of weeks and doesn’t always require professional intervention. 

Causes of shin splints 

It typically occurs when a person suddenly starts a new, or intensifies their current, workout regime. This includes an increased distance or intensity/amount of exercise. This has a nasty effect on the muscle, tendon, and bone tissue in the area. The frequent and repetitive nature of exercise means the tissue does not get a chance to fully recover before you exercise again. Two other factors which may affect this are footwear (especially if not fit-for-purpose), and the arches of your feet. If you have high or rigid arches, the muscles and bones struggle to effectively distribute the load and pressure of impact during exercise. 

Symptoms of shin splits 

Shin splits causes soreness, tenderness and, often, swelling and visible inflammation. In more severe cases, it has the potential to develop into stress fractures. The pain itself along the border of the tibia can be described as anything from “sharp” and “razor-like” to a “dull constant ache” or “throbbing.” It will most likely become worse with an increase of activity or prodding around the area of pain. 

How to manage shin splints 

There are some very simple measures you can take in order to prevent this unpleasant condition. A simple first step is checking that your footwear is fit-for-purpose. You can also temporarily switch to a lower impact exercise such as swimming, or, at least, scaling back the intensity and distance of the original exercise. A therapist or doctor should examine the structures in the area, and analyse your gait: this may help explain why the condition arose in the fist. In some cases, an x-ray may be required to rule out any fractures or breaks. 

Similar conditions to shin splints 

There are some injuries or conditions, which might feel like shin splints. Here are a few examples to be aware of: 
Stress fracture – this is a small crack in the bone which is also caused by stress and overuse. If treatment for shin splints is proving ineffective, you may want to check for this. 
Tendonitis – inflammation to the tendons following a tendon injury. 
Muscle hernia – where the muscles bulges out of place. 
Compartment syndrome – the swelling of the muscle causing nerve compression. 
Bone bruise – usually the result of a sporting trauma e.g., being kicked on the shin. 
Reduced blood flow to the area – more common in smokers due to the associated risks. 
If you think you may be struggling with shin splints, get in touch so we can get started with some treatment. 
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