A pair of shins

The Dreaded Shin Splints

In Exercise by Katie Evans

I am lucky enough to live on a quiet rural lane in Rosudgeon, Penzance, surrounded by lovely trails and the SW Coastal path. Whilst spending most of my time at home in the garden I have recently noticed the increased numbers of runners and walkers as many people have taken up this form of exercise to keep themselves moving during this difficult time.

Many will have just put on a pair of comfy shoes and have decided to walk longer than usual or to actually take up running without even thinking about whether their body can cope. Therefore, I decided to write about a common repetitive injury that can create a lot of discomfort.

Also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (M.T.T.S), “Shin Splints” is a catchall term for pain felt in the lower leg along the Tibia or shin bone. This injury is common in Runners, Tennis players and Dancers and is classed as an overuse injury.

Common causes of shin splints:

There can be a number of causes such as running on very hard surfaces, large increase in distance or intensity of training, overpronation, inadequate stretching, worn shoes, or excessive stress placed on one leg or one hip from running on cambered roads or always running in the same direction on a track. Typically, one leg is involved and it is almost always the runner’s dominant one. There is no agreed consensus of what a “Shin Splint” is, however theories include small tears or inflammation of the muscles attached to the bone or an inflammation of the periosteum (thin sheath that surrounds the bone), or a combination of all.

Treatment of shin splints:

  • Experts agree that when shin splints are suspected you should stop the activity causing them completely or decrease your training depending on the extent and duration of pain. Then, as a first step, ice your shin to reduce inflammation. You can then try the following treatments:
  • Stretch Achilles, Calves and Tibialis Anterior (muscle that runs down the front of your lower leg) regularly. Foam rolling can help stretch out the fascia.
  • Consider cross training for a while to aid recovery. Why not try swimming, cycling, running in the pool, gym sessions? Obviously these not all being available at the moment
  • Make sure you have the correct running shoes for your gait and foot motion.
  • Avoid excessively hard surfaces until pain goes away completely.
  • If you run on the track, make sure you alternate directions.
  • Do not increase your run mileage by more than 10% per week.

M.T.T.S. can also be caused by compartment syndrome which is a swelling of muscles within the compartment of fascia that causes pressure to build up. Symptoms of this include leg pain, unusual nerve sensations and muscle weakness. This is more serious than what is described above and medical advice should be sought if this is suspected.

In my clinic I assess the full picture of how you are moving and what is working well or too well due to other areas not sharing the load.

Simple changes into the way the body works as one can prevent this pain from occurring or offload the area that is overworking to release the symptoms.