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Shin splints – what are they and how do you get them?

Shin splints is a sports related injury that we commonly see at Fairfield Physiotherapy. The painful condition is typically linked to high-impact physical activity such as running and jumping. With the right treatment, shin splints won’t hold you back from doing what you love. Our sports physiotherapists can help diagnose and manage the condition and recommend a treatment plan to get you back on track.

What is shin splints?

Shin splints, also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, is the inflammation of muscles, tendons or bone tissue around the tibia (one of your shin bones). Patients with shin splints feel pain along their shin, typically on the inner side of the tibia where the muscles are connected to the bone. The pain is usually aggravated by strenuous physical activity and will mostly subside when you are off your feet.

Shin splints is a treatable condition and should not have a long-term impact on your life or sporting career. However, a professional diagnosis is recommended as shin pain can also be indicative of other more severe conditions like tendonitis, chronic exertional compartment syndrome or stress fractures.

What causes shin splints?

Shin splints is often caused by overwork or overuse of the muscles in your lower leg. This can be due to training regimen that are too intense, or above the level that you were previously used to. 

Shin splints can also be caused by:

  • Starting a new fitness program or training routine.
  • Incorrect running technique and form such as overpronation (when the foot rolls inwards as you walk or run).
  • Running or jumping on hard or uneven surfaces.
  • Wearing incorrect shoes during exercise
  • Pre-existing conditions that put additional strain on your lower leg muscles such as flat feet or tightness in calf muscles.

Shin splints can affect athletes and non-athletes alike, and it is commonly seen among runners, dancers, soccer players and military personnel.

Shin splints symptoms

If you are suffering from the following symptoms, it is possible that you have shin splints:

  • Dull, sharp or throbbing pain along your tibia
  • Tenderness in the area around your shin
  • Pain in the lower leg muscles

If your pain does not subside with adequate rest, it is best to visit a physiotherapist in order to accurately diagnose your condition and begin treatment. This will also help rule out more severe conditions. The faster you get your diagnosis, the faster you can recover!

Shin splints treatment

If you are suffering from shin pain, it is best to take a break from all physical exercise and rest as much as you can. If you must keep active, a low impact sport such has swimming is your safest option. Applying an icepack to the area, wearing a compression bandage, or taking over the counter anti-inflammatory painkillers, can also help reduce pain and inflammation. 

If your shin pain does not ease after a few days of rest, it is time to book a consultation with one of Fairfield Physiotherapy’s trusted physios. With extensive experience treating sports injuries, we’ve worked with athletes of all levels across a range of sports. During your consultation, we will aim to diagnose the source of your shin pain, and work with you to develop a treatment and recovery plan.

Diagnosis for shin splints will involve checking for pain and tenderness along your tibia. If your physio suspects that you may have a more severe condition such as a fracture, MRIs may also be required to confirm the diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with shin splints, your physio will likely recommend the following: 

  • A prolonged period of rest to prevent your condition from worsening
  • Stretching exercises to reduce tightness in your lower leg muscles
  • Strength training exercises to build strength in your lower leg muscles
  • A training plan for when you are able to return to physical activity. This includes a warm-up and cool down routine, and a gradual increase in loading to ensure that your body has time to adjust to the change.

We know that it’s not mentally or physically easy to take a break from training. That’s why we try to devise a treatment plan that not only helps you achieve a sustainable recovery but will also keep your fitness and sports goals in mind.

Shin splints prevention

At Fairfield Physiotherapy, we believe that prevention is the most effective solution for managing sports injuries. Our treatment is aimed towards sustainable recovery, meaning that we try to ensure that your injury won’t recur in the future. With this in mind, we provide comprehensive advice and training that can be applied in our patients’ daily lives. This includes:

  • Ergonomic assessment of your training gear and environment including checking if you are wearing proper shoes or exercising on ideal surfaces. We can also recommend the right running shoes for your gait, body type and running habits.
  • Correction of any incorrect form or technique while training.
  • Treatment of pre-existing conditions like overpronation or flat feet. 

Begin your treatment for shin splints

Fairfield Physiotherapy provides treatment for a range of sports-related injuries, including shin splints. Book your initial consultation today for just $92 (new patients only). Your initial consultation will include a comprehensive assessment, diagnosis and the first round of recommended treatment. Book through our online booking system, or call (03) 9489 7744.