Understanding & Addressing Shin Splints

Feb 20, 2023

What is causing your shin splints pain when you run?

Throughout the world of sport and exercise the phrase shin splints is well known. Medically this is know as the diagnosis of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), which is less known. The name can help you to understand more about this running injury.

MTSS is a common overuse injury of the lower extremity and is an early stress injury spectrum that could potentially lead to a stress fracture. Its name refers to the both the location (medial tibial/inside of the lower leg) and how it is caused (stress syndrome/repetitive stress leading to overuse). Due to its position and cause it is very common in runners and those involved in activities that are intensively weightbearing (basketball players, cricketers, jumpers, military personnel). It often presents to those that may have it as pain at the front of the shin brought on or made worse by exercise and activity.

What can cause it?

While overtraining or a large increase in load, volume and impact exercise can put you at risk of shin splints there are other things that can contribute to pain.

  • Previous history of MTSS
  • Worn out, unsupportive trainers.
  • Tight or weak calf muscles.
  • Over-striding (poor running technique)
  • Running mainly on hard surfaces.
  • Flat feet.
  • Weakness around the hips.
  • Specific uncontrolled movement faults.

If these issues are not addressed when you first start to recover then it is likely to come back again and cause you to be out of action for longer. So identifying the underlying cause of your issue is important to hlep you manage the long term effects and prevent recurrence, one of the greatest issues for people invovled with sport who sustain an injury.

How do you manage it?

The management of MTSS for the initial phase is quite conservative. The main focus is on rest and a temporary modification of activity with less repetitive, heavy load-bearing exercise. Whilst there is no specific recommendation on how long one should avoid these factors, a minimum of two weeks should be taken off to allow any inflammation to fully settle.

There are some therapies that can have an impact on MTSS include ice massage, ultrasound therapy, shockwave therapy or even orthotics.

Once the initial inflammation has settled, you can begin loading the tissues carefully; increasing the load steadily over time. Physical therapy should initially aim to correct the your gait (the way you walk) and other factors that impact how you move in order to stop any reoccurrence. Running retraining and a graded running programme have been both advocated and recommended in treatment.

According to research the prevention of MTSS shock-absorbing insoles, pronation control insoles and graduated running programmes were advocated. However is it important to stress that insoles alone will not stop the occurrence of MTSS. Over-stress avoidance is the main preventive measure.

Our suggestion is find an expert to help you identify the underlying cause, resolve the problem before it becomes more troublesome to settle and address the weaknesses in your strength and form for the best long term results.

Remove Pain & Enjoy Your Running Again