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Shin Splints

Shin Splints

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints occur when the muscles surrounding your tibia (shin bone) become irritated and inflamed, most often from the stress of running. They can also result from tiny stress fractures on your shin bone. The result is usually extreme pain in your shins.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

A medical diagram showing shin splints, both tibialis posterior muscle strain and the tibialis anterior muscle strain
You can get shin splints in two main areas on your shin. They are referred to as:

  • Tibialis Anterior Muscle Strain – this occurs when your tibialis anterior muscle (the muscle that runs along the front of your shin and is responsible for lifting your toes) becomes irritated and inflamed, resulting in pain in the front of your shin and possibly into your ankle
  • Tibialis Posterior Muscle Strain – this occurs when your tibialis posterior muscle (a relatively small muscle that runs down the back of your shin and is responsible for lowering your toes and supporting the arch of your foot when walking) becomes irritated and inflamed, resulting in pain along the rear, inside of your shin bone.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints are caused by stress put on the tibialis muscles, usually from running. Other causes include:

  • Biomechanical issues such as flat feet or rigid arches
  • Wearing poor fitting or worn out footwear
  • Putting excessive strain on your feet, such as from running downhill, on hard surfaces, or on uneven terrain
  • Playing start-and-stop sports, such as tennis or soccer
  • Having weak or tight ankle, thigh or hip muscles
  • Working out without properly stretching before and after

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Shin Splints?

The main symptom of shin splints is pain in the shin. The pain can get so bad, that it is painful to run and do other activities, such as climbing the stairs, walking, and using the gas and break pedal in the car. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain in the shin that develops during exercise
  • Pain in the ankle and big toe
  • Burning, cramping or aching feeling in the shin
  • Swelling along the shin
  • Tenderness along the shin

How Are Shin Splints Treated?

Shin splints can be treated at home and in a clinical setting. To ease the pain and inflammation of shin splints you can:

  • Rest
  • Apply ice
  • Avoid activities

If your bursitis symptoms do not improve with these at-home remedies, you may want to consult with a pt Health physiotherapist for a custom treatment plan to address your unique concerns.

Physiotherapy for Shin Splints

A pt Health physiotherapist will assess your shin splints; depending on the cause and severity of your shin splints, treatment can include:

  • Active stretching
  • Strengthening and range of motion exercises
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Personalized exercise plan
  • Customized orthotics to support the arch of your foot
  • Taping or compression garments for your shins
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Heat and ice therapy

Can Shin Splints go Away on Their Own?

Yes, shin splints may go away on its own with at home treatments including resting your foot, applying cold therapy, and taking pain-relieving medication. However, shin splints are likely to to come back if you don’t treat the root cause.

Can you Prevent Shin Splints?

If you have an increased shin splints risk (you have a biomechanical issue (flat feet) or are a runner), speak to your physiotherapist about your specific therapeutic needs. However, you can take steps to avoid shin splints including:

  • Easing into new exercise routines
  • Properly stretch before and after exercise
  • Wear supportive footwear
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your exercises
  • Strengthen your ankle, calf, thigh and hip muscles
  • Use a foam roller or massage your shins