Shin Splints

What Are Shin Splints?

“Shin splits”, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is a term used to describe pain or discomfort which appears along the middle or lower third of the shin bone or tibia; that is, on the frontal part of the shin. Shin splints are one of the most common causes of pain in the lower extremities. Although shin splints aren’t a dangerous condition, they can affect your daily routine and receiving the appropriate shin splint treatment is necessary to recover properly from this condition.


Shin splints usually affects athletes, runners, dancers, and military personnel; however, they can affect anyone who undertakes strenuous physical activities, or who has suddenly increased or changed their exercise routine. Running on irregular or hard surfaces, having extremely flat arches on your feet, wearing ill-fitting shoes, being overweight, and having abnormal movement patterns –such as overpronation or oversupination of the feet while running- are also factors which can increase your risk of developing shin splints.

The exact pathophysiology of shin splints isn’t known; however, theories include minor tears in the muscles, and injury to the periosteum or bone tissue. In all of these theories, excessive stress is the common denominator which causes shin splints.


Symptoms of shin splints are characterised by dull pain which appears during or after exercise, along the inner portion of the middle and lower thirds of the tibia or shin. Pain tends to affect both shins and it can be felt over a large area. Mild swelling can also be present in the area. The pain will usually improve or disappear while at rest. Stress fractures also cause shin pain; however, the pain caused by stress fractures is unilateral, and affects a small, specific spot. Imaging tests such as X-rays or an MRI can be ordered to rule out stress fractures and other causes of shin pain, such as compartment syndrome.


The best way to approach shin splints treatment is to combine Podiatry and Physiotherapy ; this way, you will ensure that you tissues heal properly and make it less likely for the injury to reappear in the future.

The first step in shin splint treatment is always to rest up. Although it can be frustrating if you are used to exercising and performing physical activities, you must allow your body to heal before starting your regime again. Rest is usually prescribed for 2 to 6 weeks, and over-the-counter painkillers and ice packs can be used during this time.

After this stage, your physiotherapist will prescribe different exercises aimed towards regaining full motion and muscle strength, and making sure the scar tissue from the shin splints heals in a way that will minimise the risk of re-injury.

The podiatrist’s role in shin splint treatment is to evaluate your feet and diagnose any of the biomechanical abnormalities which might have caused the problem. Then, they will decide if you need orthotics to correct these abnormalities, which will also help improve shock absorption.

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