The term ‘shin splints’ describes a cluster of types of pain that occur in the front of the lower leg along the shin bone. Shin Splints are a cumulative stress injury which means that they often occur after repetitive stressing of the bones, muscles and fascial sheaths without proper conditioning or recovery between workouts. The location of the shin pain is on the outer front portion of the lower leg (anterior shin splints) or on the insider side of the lower leg behind the curve of the shin bone.
Muscle trauma (also known as exertional compartment syndrome) is usually related to overtraining or excessive running on hard surfaces before proper conditioning (or fitness) can be built up. Repeated heavy use makes the muscle swell and takes up more room inside the fascia that covers the muscles in the lower leg. There is a limited amount of space in there, so the back pressure can lead to pain as the muscles, vessels and nerves are compressed.
Shin splints are more likely in those who have recently taken up physical activity, run on hard or uneven surfaces, use worn, poorly cushioned footwear or have foot posture issues. The pain is brought about with activity and often lingers after stopping activity.
Foot pronation is an important factor to assess as, with excessive pronation, the shin splint muscles are forced to work much harder than usual and for longer periods. This sets up the overuse injury that creates the shin inflammation. Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE) is the best immediate treatment for shin splints. Return to activity must be done gradually starting with non-weight bearing activity such as cycling and swimming. In the interim, see us for footwear advice and an assessment of your foot and leg function. It may be necessary to move the foot back to an ideal functioning position by use of orthotic devices.