Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, refers to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. The tibia is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg. The front part of this bone is referred to as the shin bone. The pain from shin splints is usually found along the inner border of the tibia, where the muscles attach to the bone. The most general cause of shin splints is a sudden change in physical activity which leads to overworked muscle and bone tissue (the periosteum) and causes inflammation.
Runners are the most likely candidates for damaging this area as a result of sudden change in frequency, duration or intensity of their running routine. Studies have shown that shin splints account for 6-16% of injuries among runners, and up to 19.5% of injuries in track athletes (1&2). Other athletes that spend a lot of time on their feet are also susceptible to shin splints. Those who have physical occupations that overuse the leg bones and muscles often report symptoms of shin splints. While overuse is the most direct cause of shin splints, other factors like improper footwear and running on hard surfaces can also lead to pain in the legs and shins.
Other specific conditions that cause shin pain are as follows:
- Stress Fractures: a typical hairline crack in one of the lower leg bones like the tibia or fibula
- Medial Stress Syndrome: inflammation of the muscles that attach to the inner side of your tibia
- Compartment Syndrome: pain and inflammation from overusing the area in the leg which contains the muscles that point your feet toward your body
- If you believe you have shin splints, your physician will be able to tell by performing a series of tests. The physician might examine your gait, and determine if the stress to the leg bones and muscles is a result of the mechanical form used while walking or running. Prevention of shin splints all together is the ideal solution (which will be discussed further in the reading) in battling shin splints.
For those who already have shin splints, we will examine the best ways to treat and relieve pain, as well as how to prevent shin splints in the future.