Shin Splints

Summary Shin splints are a general term for pain on the inside of the shin. This article considers the most common cause of shin splints, the muscle tibialis anterior, the causative factors for shin splints and the possible treatments.

Shin splints are a general term used to describe pain on the front of the shin which is brought on by exercise. There are a number of causes of shin pain, but here we shall consider one of most common reasons for shin splints which is the muscle/ tendon on the front of the shin called the tibialis anterior.

Tibialis anterior shin splints are common in endurance athletes such as runners or long distance walkers.

Tibialis anterior joins onto the shin bone (tibia) runs down the inside front of the shin across the ankle and attaches onto the inside of the foot. Tibialis anterior has two roles to play when walking or running. Firstly when the heel hits the floor on each stride it works to pay out and lower the foot to the ground. Next when the foot pushes off the ground the muscle bends the ankle up to allow the foot to clear the ground.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Increasing training too quickly. Training should be gradually ramped up. Anterior shin splints are common in people who return to running after a period away from training or in those who have recently taken up running and have increased their mileage too quickly.

Tight calf muscles. A common cause of shin pain, tight calf muscles alter the range of movement that the ankle can move through on every stride and thus add extra stress to the anterior tibial muscle.

Overpronation. Also associated with tight calf muscles a foot which rolls over too far on every step is overstretching the anterior tibials.

Inappropriate footwear, for instance running in trainers which do not provide the appropriate motion control for your foot type.

 How to Stop Shin Splints

  • Exercises provided by your Physiotherapist, including specific stretches and eccentric strengthening.
  • Ice relieves the immediate pain and inflammation.
  • Footwear adaption/ orthotics.
  • Phased return to exercise.

Other Causes of Medial Shin Pain

Although the most common cause of medial shin pain is associated with the tibialis anterior and can be treated as described, it is important to rule out other causes of shin pain including:

Stress fracture.

Compartment syndrome: A potentially very serious condition where swelling of the muscles puts pressure on the surrounding structures.

Referred pain: Pain which although felt in the shin is caused by a nerve being compressed in the lower back.

Vascular pain: pain due to impaired circulation

 If you think that you have shin splints or are concerned about shin pain contact us today.

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