Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), is defined as “pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). Shin splints are usually caused by repeated trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the tibia. They are a common injury affecting athletes who engage in running sports or other forms of physical activity, including running and jumping even dancers & Military personnel undergoing basic training.
While medial tibial stress syndrome is the most common form of shin splints, compartment syndrome and stress fractures are also possible forms of pain along the shin. Females are 1.5 to 3.5 times more likely to progress to stress fractures from shin splints.
While the exact cause is unknown, shin splints can be attributed to the overloading of the lower leg due to biomechanical irregularities.
Some predisposing factors may include:
Excessive pronation at subtalar joint – the foot.
Excessively tight calf muscles (which can cause excessive pronation).
Engaging the medial shin muscle in excessive amounts of eccentric muscle activity.
Undertaking high-impact exercises on hard surfaces like running on concrete.
Typical treatments include rest, ice, restoring lower limb biomechanics then a well timed and gradual return to activity. Individuals should gradually return to activity, beginning with a short and low intensity activity. Over multiple weeks, they can slowly work up to normal activity level. It is important to decrease activity level if any pain returns.
Individuals should consider running on other surfaces besides asphalt, such as grass, to decrease the amount of force the lower leg must absorb. Orthotics and insoles help to improve biomechanics, like pronation, and help to support the arch of the foot. Other interventions include footwear refitting, balance training, correct stretching and supplementation.
Surgery is only performed in extreme cases where more conservative options have been tried for at least a year. However, surgery does not guarantee 100% recovery.
The return of normal lower limb function will usually reduce and remove symptoms. Advice regarding how to avoid activities that are likely to aggravate symptoms and following home help remedies will ensure this condition resolves and any potential relapse is avoided. So if you or someone you know is experiencing shin splints why not get a thorough examination. Get to the underlying cause and back to your favorate activities.
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