Apex Performance Centre

Shin Splints Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Shin Splint Illustration

If your shins ache after going for your morning run it could be due to shin splints. Shin splints occur as an injury to the tibia (shinbone) and surrounding muscles and connective tissue. The term  refers to the pain commonly felt on the inside of the shinbone or tibia.

They are most often associated with exercise, and are commonly seen in runners, dancers, and soldiers, although any strenuous activity including walking can bring them on, especially at the beginning of training. Typically the symptoms get worse with exercise and better with rest.

Shin Splint Illustration

Physiology

The bone, muscle, and connective tissue surrounding inside of the lower tibia or shinbone is the affected area.

What Causes Shin Splints?

In general shin splints are exercise related, and are quite often seen when intensity of exercise is dramatically increased. Runners are especially vulnerable, and a typical example would be when a runner substantially increases his or her training distance or frequency or alters their training regimen to include hills or uneven terrain.

The increase in repetitive activity leads to overuse of the muscles and connective tissues and brings on the condition. Many people report a throbbing or aching and sometimes swelling on the inside of the tibia that comes on with exercise and subsides with rest. The area can be tender and sore to the touch.

Overpronation during running or walking (flat feet), shoes that don’t fit properly or provide adequate support, and weak core muscles can be contributing factors.

Shin Splints From Running

Treatment And Prevention

Except in rare or unusual cases, shin splints will heal on their own. See your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and rule out more serious conditions with an x-ray.  Stop the exercise or activity that caused the pain and rest your legs.

If the pain and swelling is uncomfortable, ice your shin for 20 minutes at a time. Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs may help with the pain and swelling. In some cases wrapping the lower leg with a tensor bandage may bring relief, although it should be noted that this is not a treatment.  If you determine that arch collapse is a contributing factor, orthotics can help.

Although it can take several months for shin splints to resolve, improvement is often seen in 2-4 weeks. You should be pain free for at least 2 weeks prior to resuming exercise and when you do approach it moderately in incremental steps. Warming up properly, stretching, and cross-training will help the condition from recurring.

Runners should ramp up their distance and intensity gradually, and may wish to alternate running with cross training to moderate the impact.

How Apex Can Help

If you have been diagnosed with shin splints or think you may have them, the health professionals at the Apex Centre are well equipped to help you return to normal activity quickly. Our athletic therapists can examine your gait and may recommend a functional movement screen to help determine the cause of your injury.

Massage therapy may also be indicated to speed recovery, and we can customize exercises and stretching designed to prevent the injury from recurring.

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