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How To Prevent And Treat Shin Splints: A Complete Guide For All Exercise Participants

Updated: Mar 21


Illustration depicting shin splints: Anatomical diagram highlighting discomfort along the shin bone, indicative of medial tibial stress syndrome

Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), is a common condition for those engaged in running and high-impact sports. Muscles, tendons, and bone tissue become inflamed, causing pain along the shin bone (tibia). This guide will cover the causes, symptoms, prevention, and effective treatments for shin splints.


Causes of Shin Splints


Overuse and Repetitive Stress:

One of the primary causes of shin splints is overuse or repetitive stress on the lower leg. A sudden increase in activity such as running, will increase the likelihood of shin splints occurring. It is common during pre-season in sports as individuals look to increase their fitness. 


Posture:

Your posture can affect the way that your feet interact with the ground. Your pelvis may be unaligned due to bad posture, this can affect the muscle balance throughout the leg and in your feet. Some individuals may have a high or low arch which can further increase the stress on the shin bones, leading to shin splints.


Footwear:

Wearing inadequate or worn-out footwear can contribute to the development of shin splints by causing an imbalance of the lower leg muscles. This imbalance can cause overuse and develop into shin splints if not identified.


Symptoms of Shin Splints


Pain Along the Shin:

The most common symptom is pain, this can present along the inner edge of the shinbone and behind the bone. It can be over a large area or could just be a localised area of pain. When commencing physical activity pain may start as a dull ache and may progress to sharper pain over time. The affected area may be tender to the touch, and swelling can occur due to inflammation.


Pain During and After Exercise:

Pain often arises during physical activity, specifically in running or high-impact activity. The pain can present quickly and often be more painful at the start of the activity. However, it can persist and become more intense even after the activity has ceased.


Mild to Moderate Redness:

In some cases, mild to moderate redness may be visible over the inflamed area.


Prevention Strategies


Gradual Progression:

Avoid sudden increases in the intensity or duration of your workouts. Gradually progress to more demanding activities, giving your body time to adapt and preventing overuse. 


Stretching and Strengthening:

Incorporate stretching exercises for the calves, hamstrings, and shin muscles into your warm-up routine. Strengthening exercises for the lower leg muscles can also help prevent shin splints.


Modify Activity Sessions:

If you begin to experience shin pain during physical activity, consider modifying the session to reduce stress on the shin. This could be done by changing the load, for example, swimming or cycling instead of running.


Treatment Options


Rest:

Give your body adequate time to rest and recover between activities. This will allow the body to adapt to your increased load and prevent overuse. If pain does occur during a session, then ensure the session is modified or stopped to prevent further risk of injury. 


Physical Therapy:

Consulting with a physical therapist can provide personalised exercises and stretches to address muscle imbalances and improve overall strength in the lower leg and feet. This will help the cause that may be linked to posture, muscle imbalances, and low arches. 


Gradual Return to Activity:

Once the pain has subsided, gradually reintroduce physical activities to avoid a recurrence of shin splints. Continue to modify sessions when needed if the pain represents and allow time for rest. 


Conclusion


Shin splints can be a challenging condition to navigate, but with a comprehensive understanding of the causes, symptoms, and effective prevention and treatment strategies, individuals can overcome this discomfort and return to their active lifestyles. Remember, if symptoms persist or worsen, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough assessment and personalised guidance on managing shin splints.

 





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