All You Need to Know About Shin Splints

What are shin splints and how can a podiatrist play a role in my intervention?

Many of the athletic population get lower limb injuries and a lower limb injury is common amongst the sporting population (runners, basketballers, and footballers just to name a few) it is a condition called Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) otherwise known as shin splints to some people. If you have suffered from this condition or believe you have a lower limb injury, please read on.

What are shin splints?

As previously stated, shin splints are more correctly known as MTSS. MTSS is often described as an exercise induced lower leg pain from overuse which results from injury to muscles, tendons, and bone around the front of the lower leg, the tibia to be specific.

The person may first experience a dull ache along the shin area during or post activities, which may turn into more severe pain and can be felt during rest. It is imperative to not overlook this pain as it may influence your ability to exercise to your peak performance and therefore, stop training altogether. So, pay attention to your body and don’t exercise during the pain.

Why do shin splints occur?

There are several reasons a person may develop shin splints. I will outline them below.

  • Poor foot mechanics has been associated with the development. Increase in navicular drop which increases pronation.
  • Inflexibility, muscle fatigue and/or lower limb muscle weakness cannot shock absorb and attenuate ground reaction forces acting on bone and increasing risk of injury.
  • Previous sporting lower limb injury may predispose you.                                                                                                                                            
  • Increased BMI increases the ground reaction forces acting upon the lower limb.
  • Weakness in core strength and/or pelvic stability, equally are imperative in creating optimal load transfer between the core and the lower limb.
  • Reduced proprioception otherwise acknowledged as balance.
  • Training mistakes for example sudden increase in training frequency, length, or intensity (seen as more than 30% over the past year), hill training then a change to a harder surface.
  • Poor footwear or the mileage on the running shoe

What are my options and how can it be treated?

As podiatrists, working with a sporting person or patient, we must completely recognise MTSS to develop effective preventative measures for the individual. Prevention is key, however, there isn’t one single preventative approach it is more a collective which I will outline below.

  • Firstly, you will need to undertake a screening process by one of our podiatrists to concentrate on the primary risk factors
  • Kinesiology taping with a focus on reducing pronation
  • Orthotics may be deemed necessary if you respond well to taping, with shock absorption to dissipate forces and anti-pronation to address the navicular drop.
  • Shoes may need to be updated as in correct footwear or older shoes cannot shock absorb correctly. Running shoes ought to be changed roughly between 300-600 kms based on a few factors such as body weight, running style and training surfaces.
  • A graduated running programme with built in rest days. Do not increase running distance by more than 10% per month.
  • Avoid hill training and running on hard surfaces for up to a month after an interruption from running.
  • A strengthening exercise programme from the hip down
  • Repeated stretching

If you or someone you know that experiences shin splints or would like a thorough biomechanical assessment from one of the podiatrists at The Footcare Clinic, please don’t hesitate to contact The Footcare Clinic and one of our podiatrists will assess the situation and establish a treatment plan for you. Booking online is super easy or you can call our clinic on (03) 9711 7562 and our team will help you make an appointment.

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