Shin Splints is an umbrella term used to describe several different conditions that cause pain around varying parts of the shin region. There are several structures that can cause pain in this area so it is very important to get a correct diagnosis. Different types of shin splints occur in long distance runners, and in participants of impact and jumping sports.
What are the causes of shin splints?
Stress Fractures: whilst not typically referred to as a type of shin splint, stress fractures must be mentioned here as they are a type of that shin pain that must be ruled out, as treatment may vary for this and so it is important to have a correct diagnosis. It might be helpful to think of stress fractures as a more severe form of shin splints. Stress fractures are exactly what the name suggests; small cracks or fractures that gradually develop with the bones with excessive stress or loading. This comes with very localised pain on one of the bones in the shin. Stress fractures are more common in the tibia than the fibula, so pain is typically felt on the inside of the shin. Stress fractures are a gradual onset, and are made worse with exercise. A rapid increase in your training program, incorrect footwear, poor running biomechanics and poor bone density can all be contributing factors. This type of pain will tend to progress with further activity and often aching at night is present.
Inflammation: at the insertion of the muscles onto the bone, particularly tibialis posterior and soleus muscles in the calf. This presents as a diffused pain along the medial tibia (inside of the shin).
Vascular insufficiency: altered blood flow either into or out of the leg can present as pain in the calf.
Compartment syndrome: this typically presents as increased aching pain and tightness during exercise, with no pain at rest. Overuse and inflammation of the lower leg muscles can increase the pressure within the compartment and reduce blood flow to the muscles. The pain in this type of injury is described as tightness and settles within minutes of cessation of the aggravating activity. Occasionally patients complain of pins and needles in the feet.
Nerve entrapment: this is less common, but can cause pain in the shin.
What Complete Care Physiotherapy Centre can do to treat Shin Splints
An initial period of relative rest will be essential. This does not necessarily mean a complete pause on aggravating activity, but simply a reduction in it. We will advise you on appropriate cross-training exercises to keep up your fitness and not cause pain. We will provide a specific strengthening program with a gradual return to running.
- Soft tissue release: Release spasms in the muscles surrounding the calf and shin.
- Neuro-myofascial needling to increase flexibility in the neural pathway stemming from the lower back into the lower limbs.