Shin splints - Causes, symptoms, Treatement

Shin splint

The injury shin splints is not an actual injury by itself, it is more a definition for a collection of shin irritations. The most common variant is an inflammation of the inside of the shin. Shin splints are also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).

The shins (tibia) are especially under stress while jumping and running. For this reasons, shin splints mainly occur with athletes (running, football, basketball, etc.) and mountain walkers.

Causes of  shin splints

Shin splints are a typical stress injury. Stress can occurr in may ways, the following are the most common ones:

  • Bad shoes:  Wearing shoes with too little cushioning and too little support can cause shin splints. They may cause over pronation, where the foot leans slightly inward. Also shoes lacking a good footbed are bad.
  • A difference in lenght of the legs or foot irregularities like flat feet or hollow feet. They can cause an inbalance, with high forces on the shin. Aso a natural over pronation can cause this.
  • Intensive sports: Sporting intensively can put major stress on the tibias, and cause shin splints. Especially a sudden increase in training activity can cause this, like in the beginning of the season, or after a period of rest due to other injuries. Make sure you warm up properly. For mountain walking, the downhill track may be cause for overload.
  • Overweight is a possible cause as well.

Symptoms

The major symptom for shin splints is an irritation or pain in the shins, usually on the lower part, a few inches above the ankle. Initially the pain is only felt during activities, but in a later stage, it is also felt while resting.

Also the pain may be felt more in certain positions, like when you are squatting down, or crossing your legs while being seated.

Shin splints treatment

The best remedy for shin splints is slowing down, and reducing your sport activities. Especially when the first irritation is being felt, it is best to take a period of rest for about three weeks. Some other possible treatments or ways of prevention are:

  • Gradually train your shin muscles so that they become stronger, and are better capable of handling shock movements.
  • Wear proper shoes, taking care of proper support, good footbed and good cushioning.
  • Stretching exercises for the muscles in your legs can be very healing, as long as you don't exaggerate.
  • Make sure you put variation in your training, also in the underground on which you run. Running outside, in the woods or on the beach is better then running on a track, or in the gym.
  • Massage your shins, preferably have it done by a profesional.
  • Some people feel a positive effect from wearing sport compression socks.