Understanding Shin Splints: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Management

Shin splints, a term familiar to many athletes, particularly runners, often raises concern about whether you can continue your training without making the condition worse. This blog aims to dissect the intricacies of shin splints, with a look at its causes, symptoms, and how physiotherapy can be helpful in managing shin splints.

What are “Shin Splints”? And How Can Physio Help?

Shin splints serve as an umbrella term for a number of injuries affecting the lower leg. The pain, generally felt along the inner edge of the tibia (shinbone), can range from mild discomfort to more intense pain that limits everyday activities.

Understanding the specific diagnosis of your shin pain is crucial, as treatments vary significantly based on the cause (for example a fracture vs inflammation of the tendon). A physio assessment is essential—and remember, while aiming to be informative, this blog is not a substitute for medical advice.

Potential diagnosis;

  1. Bone damage
    Bone damage ranges from bone oedema (bruising), through to a true fracture of the shin bone. This pain typically gets worse with more running, and is a very pin-point pain in the shin. This is considered a serious pathology, as it has the potential to lead to poorer outcomes.
  2. Tendon pain/Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
    Tendon pain in the shin may warm up with more running, and typically spans a length of >5 centimetres along the inside of the shin. This is the type of pain that this blog will discuss;

By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of how to manage tendon pain/Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome symptoms effectively.

When should I worry about shin pain?

It’s important to consult a physio if:

  • The pain persists or worsens despite rest.
  • There is noticeable swelling.
  • The pain becomes sharp and localized.

Why do people get shin splints?

  1. A sudden change or increase in training load; for example when preparing for a marathon or returning to running after a period of time off, or when change terrain.
  2. Biomechanics; for example, running technique issues
  3. Poor footwear
  4. Lack of strength
  5. Lack of flexibility

How do you heal shin splints?

Healing shin splints involves a multifaceted approach. Initially, a relative reduction in the running intensity is recommended—this means adjusting the frequency, duration, or speed of your runs.

Improving running mechanics can also play a role; over-striding is a common issue that can exacerbate this type of shin pain, and so reducing the stride length can be helpful.

Incorporating specific muscle-strengthening exercises, particularly those that target the muscles of the lower legs, can also be helpful.

 

Can you push through shin splints?

While mild cases might not require complete cessation of running, it’s crucial to listen to your body. Adjusting your activity level and seeking a physio for guidance on whether a level of discomfort is acceptable during running. Pushing through pain without proper management can lead to worsening symptoms or more serious injury.

What are some common exercises for Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome?

 

 

Conclusion

Understanding and addressing shin splints involves a comprehensive approach that considers the intensity and nature of the pain, contributing factors, and specific symptoms.

For those dedicated to maintaining their active routines, recognising when to seek help and how to adjust your training routine are important steps toward recovery.

If you would like more information on shin splints or if you need some further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Experience the Momentum difference today!

We believe that modern physio should offer you care across the entire treatment journey to achieve your goals, from pain relief, to strengthening and reducing injury risk. This is why we created our purpose-built facility with access to state of the art technology and equipment.