What are shin splints and how should you manage them?

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What are shin splints?

In clinical terms, shin splints are commonly known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. This stems from the exercise induced injury causing pain along the inside aspect of the tibial border. The pain occurs due to a repetitive strain or loading of the lower leg.

Shin splints regularly occur in the athletic population with sports involving a lot of repetition. The most common sports that the injury affects are:

  • running
  • football
  • jumping

Prevalence is higher in females due to hormonal and biomechanical differences which can lead to further issues such as stress fractures. Risk is also increased in individuals who are over-weight.

Factors which also increase chances-

  • increase in training or change to training routine
  • change of training ground
  • biomechanical abnormalities
Diagram showing shin splints

How to manage shin splints

Management of shin splints tends to be more physical than medical management.

Physical management should be used to examine the individual to rule out any biomechanical differences. This may involve:

  • knee varus/valgus
  • muscle length tests
  • muscle imbalances
  • foot arch
  • leg length
  • types of shoes they wear

Most athletes would prefer to continue exercising than to fully stop, so it is advised that they lower their training intensity and frequencies for the first few weeks in their acute phase. This will allow for some recovery to occur in the affected area.

Also during the acute phase, RICE should be implemented:

Rest the injured area for 48 hours.

Ice for 20 minutes a time, 4 – 8 times a day.

Compress to help reduce swelling.

Elevate the injured limb 6 to 10 inches above the heart.

Stretching is fundamental to include within recovery programmes. Eccentric stretching of the calf muscle specifically helps relieve the pain on the shin. The calves attach onto the shin bone, and therefore when tight it pulls along the border causing the sharp pains.

Heat directly onto the muscle belly of the calf post exercise is also very beneficial. The heat will help assist in relaxing the muscle and therefore decreasing the strain on the shin.

Get in touch if you need help in person

If you would like to see someone for help, get in touch with us or book in for an osteopathy session.

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