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Shin Splints

Apr 11, 2019

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Pain in the lower leg can be on the inside, front or the outside of the leg and is often called Shin Splints.  Shin Splints refers to pain in this area that is exercise induced (or caused). More often than not, it is related to overuse; typically  “too much too soon”.

With the weather warming up, many of us head outdoors to resume warm weather activities and sports...and do too much!  It’s the time of year that this condition often presents itself in our clinic.

The most common shin pain presentation is along the inside of the tibia (larger lower leg bone). Its technical term is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).  It is the result of excessive strain of the tissues, and possibly the bone along the inside border of the tibia. It’s considered an overuse injury related to running on hard or uneven surfaces, increasing duration and intensity of training too quickly, and use of old or inappropriate footwear that doesn’t provide adequate shock absorption.  It is also commonly related to an individual’s foot mechanics, such as over pronation, as well as muscle strength and flexibility.

Peroneal muscle strain also falls under the Shin Splint term.  It is pain along the outside of the lower leg. Certain foot types are more likely to suffer from this type of shin splint. Foot mechanics that result in excessive lateral (to the outside of the leg) movement can result in peroneal strain.  Like MTSS, it too is related to running and jumping sports, particularly on uneven ground.

Tibialis anterior strain is a common overuse presentation.  Tibialis anterior is the bigger muscle on the outside front of the calf. Frequently, strain is caused by hill climbing/descending, and running. Muscle soreness presents as discomfort when lifting and, especially, lowering your foot to the ground.

Compartment syndrome can be a cause of shin pain and is related to increased pressure within the muscle compartment.  There may be related numbness, tingling and/or muscle weakness, specifically after activity. Medical intervention may be required for this presentation.

Regardless of the type of Shin Splint presentation, proper footwear is essential.  Reduce the amount and intensity of your activity. In addition, regular calf stretching will help. If symptoms persist, a pedorthic consultation to review footwear and foot mechanics can get you back on the path to activity.  A simple change in footwear may be all that is required. Custom orthotics may be recommended if your foot mechanics predispose you to this type of injury.