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Common Conditions

Shin Splints


Shin Splints or also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons and bone tissue around the tibia. Pain typically occurs along the inner border of the tibia where muscles attach to the bone. Shin splints frequently affect people who engage in moderate to heavy physical activity and most likely to develop due to participation in strenuous physical activities or stop-start sports such as tennis, racquetball, soccer or basketball.

In general, shin splints develop when the muscle and bone tissue (periosteum) in the leg become overworked by repetitive activity. Shin splints often occur after sudden changes in physical activity. These can be changes in frequency such as increasing the number of days you exercise each week. Changes in duration and intensity such as running longer distances or on hills can also cause shin splints. Other factors that contribute to shin splints include having flat feet or abnormally rigid arches and exercising with improper or worn-out footwear. Runners are at highest risk for developing shin splints. Dancers and military recruits are two other groups frequently diagnosed with the condition.

The most common symptom of shin splints is pain along the border of the tibia. Mild swelling in the area may also occur. Shin splint pain may be sharp and razor-like or dull and throbbing, occur both during and after exercise and aggravated by touching the sore spot.

There are several techniques in physical therapy that can be used to treat shin splints. As this is an overuse injury, avoiding the aggravating activity will help with recovery. Icing the area for about 10 minutes a few times each day will help decrease the pain as well. The affected muscles typically become tight with this type of injury so manual therapy and gently stretching them will help with pain and recovery. The physical therapist may also use a Kinesio taping technique to provide some arch support as well as manual techniques such as soft tissue massage to help the shin muscles heal. Your therapist will also prescribe a home exercise program to strengthen muscles to prevent shin splints from recurring. Body mechanics will also likely be assessed and corrected where needed. Footwear modification will also be recommended to provide better support. If in doubt, seek professional advice.