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Shin Splints

seville health yarra valley sports injury

As winter sports kick in to gear, our physios at Seville Health are seeing an increasing number of sports injuries presenting to the clinic, including a common injury – shin splints.

What is shin splints?

Shin splints or ‘medial tibial stress syndrome’ is a painful condition, common among runners and sports people. It usually occurs due to excessive loading or overloading that puts extra load and stress on the tibia. This can cause pain, tenderness and inflammation. This usually affects the lower third of the tibia.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain on the inside or front of your shin, usually at the bottom third of your shin bone
  • Pain worsens with exercise or running
  • Usually settles with rest

A physiotherapist is able to assess and diagnose shin splints as well as identify the causes of injury, as well as refer for imaging if necessary.

The most common cause of shin splints is overuse/overtraining, as well as poor biomechanics or running technique. Some of the most common causes include;

  • A sudden change or increase in training
  • Running on hard grounds or up hills
  • Lack of rest between training sessions
  • Poor or unsupportive footwear
  • Poor foot mechanics including overpronation (flat feet) or over supination (high arches)
  • Poor running technique
  • Ankle stiffness
  • Weak hips, knees, calfs and core muscles
  • Tight calf and hamstring muscles
  • Poor foot intrinsic strength

Your sports physio will be able to provide a tailored treatment plan. Treatment will depend upon the individual cause of shin splints, however the general principals include reducing load on the tibia, addressing the causes, and a gradual return to sport with a modified loading program.

As with most acute injuries, the initial treatment and relief is with rest from activity and ice. In many cases paracetamol or anti-inflammatories may be recommended. Taping may also assist in taking load off the area. Following initial treatment, rehabilitation will commence. This may involve:

  • Strengthening of calf, quadriceps, gluteals, shin, core and other muscles
  • Foot strengthening
  • Improve Foot biomechanics
    (and referral for a podiatry assessment if warranted)
  • Running technique modification
  • Graded return to sport program plan
  • Advice regarding running and return to sport time-frames

Can I do damage if I keep training?
Shin splints can affect the muscles, tenoperiosteum (where the tendon meets the bone), or bone. Damage can be mild due to a stress reaction to the bone, however if left untreated (with training and running continued), shin splints can worsen and progress to tibial stress fractures.

Many cases of shin splints are incorrectly diagnosed, often labelled as compartment syndrome. This type of compartment syndrome occurs when the muscle and fascia tightens around the tibialis anterior muscle, restricting blood flow. This may require surgical intervention.

Your physiotherapist will be able to thoroughly assess your injury and may suggest a bone scan or MRI if they think further investigation is needed.

At Seville Health, our physiotherapists are able to assist with all your sports injuries. For more information contact us at Seville Health – your Yarra Valley physiotherapists.