Shin Splints (Tibial Stress Syndrome)

Well done! You’ve taken the first steps to understanding and relieving your Shin Splints! Once you read this page answer the questions on the sheet given by your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia and bring that to your next treatment session. Shin Splints   Recovery from your Shin Splints is crucial in order to achieve your goals and gain rapid and long-lasting results. Your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia has requested that you read this page so that you understand your condition and know how to best manage in between physiotherapy consultations.  

What are Shin Splints?

Shin Splints are a common injury that affects the front or inside part of the shinbone (the tibia). The medical term for Shin Splints is actually Tibial Stress Syndrome, and can either be Anterior (at the front) or Medial (on the inner side) depending on where the injury is. Typically, people with this condition are runners or athletes, however this does not always have to be the case. The condition usually is aggravated when the muscles of the leg, the bones or the tendons are overloaded or overstressed, usually with activities that require loading the foot repeatedly, such as in jumping and running. The main muscles that are affected in this condition are the Tibialis Anterior muscle, which is responsible for lifting up the forefoot and Tibialis Posterior muscle, which is responsible for planting down the forefoot. Common symptoms of Shin Splints usually are a dull ache in the front or inner shinbone, either during activity or after activity. In severe cases, the shinbone may be painful to touch. If there is pain in the shinbone constantly, then unfortunately this may mean that your condition has progressed to severe, which means that you should definitely seek treatment and cease activities altogether! Otherwise, it is a good idea to seek treatment before you get to this stage to ensure it does not deteriorate further.


What caused my Shin Splints?

The main structures that have been proposed to be the cause of the pain experienced in Tibial Stress Syndrome, as the name suggests, is small fractures within the tibia (shinbone). These small fractures are called micro-fractures and can only be seen with specialised imaging, standard X-rays may not be able to show these. Micro-fractures of the tibia are developed when there has been increased load on the bone that it is not able to tolerate. This usually means that you have either been training with too much intensity or frequency and are unable to cope with the training load. In addition to the micro-fractures within the tibia, there will be accompanied inflammation within the attachments of the tendons and the muscles to the bone. This structure is called the teno-periosteum and is essentially a protective covering for bones. With each contraction of the muscles located in the shinbone, it will pull on the tendon that attaches the muscle to the bone, and consequently continually aggravate these structures. Shin Splints can also be caused by other factors such as poor circulation, lack of flexibility, endocrine or metabolic factors.


How can you help me with my Shin Splints?

A detailed history, taken by your Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinician, of the pain or injury can determine the underlying cause of your Shin Splints, while a physical assessment of the knee, hip and surrounding structures, can determine the best course of action in treating the condition. Usually, treatment will involve correcting any abnormal gait (walking) biomechanics, and strengthening muscles to reduce muscle imbalances and tightness.


What should I do to avoid aggravating my Shin Splints?

  • AVOID activities that aggravate your pain, until you have seen a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinician.
  • AVOID stretching your ankle as this may be aggravating the tendon.
  • REMAIN ACTIVE, while avoiding aggravating activities. Continue doing pain-free activities such as walking or swimming.
  • For RELIEF, applying ice to the area may help to reduce some pain and inflammation. Be sure to wrap the icepack in a towel, and only apply for 10 minutes every 2 hours. CEASE use if you have any negative reaction.
  • RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles de-loaded and moving freely with no restrictions.
Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Shin Splint pain has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.
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