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What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, or ‘Tibial Stress Syndrome’, is a common injury that affects runners and walkers, although not exclusively. It involves pain either at the front or towards the middle of the shin either during or after exercise. Activities that most commonly cause these symptoms are walking, running and jumping. Muscular imbalances involving tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior often lead to the development of shin splints, as can altered walking and running biomechanics and sudden increases in activity. Often there is no structural damage to the shin bone itself, however it is possible for shin splints to progress to injuries like a tibial stress fracture. It is important to get your shin splints assessed by your physiotherapist in order to get the correct diagnosis and to prevent any more serious injury.

What caused my Shin Splints?

The periosteum of your tibia, the other covering of your shin bone, is proposed as the main source of pain in shin splints. Muscular imbalances to the muscles in your shin; tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior, or over-activity of the ankle flexor muscles can lead to a bone-stress reaction to occur. This will cause pain at the periosteum when loading the shin, while walking running or jumping. This bone-stress reaction can also occur when there is an increase in the total amount of loading of the shin, particularly when this loading occurs on hard surfaces, like concrete running, or playing sport on hard courts. Stress to the periosteum can lead to the development of ‘microfractures’ in the tibia over time. Also, accompanied inflammation in the shin can cause compartment syndromes, which are more difficult to resolve.

How can you help me with my Shin Splints?

Your physiotherapist will take a detailed history of your activity levels and pain presentation on order to give the best possible diagnosis. They will also undertake a thorough physical examination of your hip, knee, foot and ankle in order to determine the optimum treatment plan. You should also expect your physiotherapist to assess your walking and running biomechanics, training patterns and muscular strength in order to fully address the underlying causes and prevent any ongoing recurrence.

What should I do to avoid aggravating my Shin Splints?

  • AVOID activities that aggravate your pain, until you have seen your physiotherapist
  • REMAIN ACTIVE, while avoiding aggravating activities.
  • For RELIEF, applying ice to the area may help to reduce some pain and inflammation. Wrap the ice to prevent direct contact with your skin
  • RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles performing to their optimum level.

Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Shin Splint pain has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.

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