'Shin Splints' refers to an overuse inflammation of the outer coating of the tibia (shin bone), and the muscles attaching to the inner part of the tibia. The pain may be caused by the tendons and muscles that run the length of the shin, pulling on the bone and creating inflammation. Recent research suggests that shin splints occurs due to a stress reaction from the bone. This explains why the pain often feels like a deep, achin sensation that can last weeks or even months. Commonly pain is felt after exercise initially and then can progress to pain when walking or even at rest, if not managed well.
Faulty biomechanics of the foot can contribute to the onset of shin splines. Feet which roll in (pronate) place excessive strain on the various muscles in the shins. Another common cause is overuse - exercising too hard or trying to exercise beyond your current level of fitness can strain muscles, tendons, bones and joints. Running on hard surfaces and wearing shoes without adequate support can also contribute as the tibia is particularly sensitive to impact.
Some ways to reduce the risk of shin splints in the future include:
- Throughly warm up before exercising and make sure you allow time for a cool down with lots of slow, sustained stretches
- Strengthen the muscles in your lower legs
- Choose flat, softer surfaces to run on
- Ensure your footwear has adequate support
- Cross-train with lower impact activities such as cycling, swimming or walking
Treatment options include rest, regular use of icepacks on the affected area, biomechanical corrections includin orthotics or taping, stretching & strengthening exercises and soft tissue release. Consultation with a healthcare professional is essential for the correct diagnosis and management of shin splints.