Shin splints is a condition where there is an ache or pain located on either side of the Tibia or “shin bone”. Shin splints is common amongst athletes involved in sports where there is an associated running component.
The pain associated with shin splints can arise from damage or injury to one or more structures in the lower leg. The tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior are muscles of the lower leg that anchor themselves to the shin bone or as it is known anatomically the Tibia. All bones have a very sensitive covering called the periosteum. The Tibialis muscles attach themselves to the periosteum of the shin bone (Tibia) via soft tissue anchors called Sharpey’s fibers. When these fibers and the affected periosteum itself become inflamed and irritated, one experiences the pain associated with shin splints. It should be noted that is some cases shin pain can also arise from the tibia bone as a result of a stress reaction or in more severe cases a stress fracture.
While there are many causes of shin splints, most are the result of incorrect training practices, overtraining or faulty foot biomechanics.
The symptoms associated with shin splints revolves around a dull aching pain in the front of the lower leg. In the initial stages of shin splints an athlete will commonly experience pain which disappears during activity only to reappear after the activity ceases and the muscles cool down. As the condition deteriorates the pain tends to get worse with activity rather than relieved by it, until finally there is no relief.
Treatment for shin splints takes on many forms. Initially the use of ice and anti-inflammatory gels along with the identification and correction of faulty foot biomechanics, use of appropriate foot wear and modification of activities can be very effective. The implementation of massage, laser, ultrasound, dry needling, certain kinesio taping techniques and rehabilitation exercises, including strengthening of the muscles in the lower leg, can be extremely helpful.