April 12, 2022

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), is a condition that causes discomfort on the inside, or front, of your leg – right between your knee and ankle. It can affect up to 35% of people who run and/or jump. But what is happening to cause this pain?

Medial tibial stress syndrome is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. This common, exercise-related, problem typically develops after physical activity. Any vigorous sports activity can bring on shin splints. We see this a lot across the pre-season phase of sport training, or from people who are just beginning a new fitness program. It may occur after a certain point in your training (for example, 20 minutes in, or after 5km) but, eventually, it left unmanaged, your shin pain may be present before, during and after your run or training session. While it can be extremely frustrating, there are a few physio-approved tips to treat the symptoms and prevent it from occurring again.

Simple measures can help relieve the immediate pain of shin splints. Rest, ice, compression and stretching/flexibility exercises can often help. An important aspect of managing shin splints is understanding what triggers the condition in the first place. This can include:

  • An increase in training load/volume
  • The addition of incline work to running, or changing to faster movements without appropriate progression
  • Tight calf and shin muscles
  • Poor running technique (for example, overstriding, flat feet, high ‘bounce’)
  • Training surfaces (hard surfaces, hills)
  • Weakness in calf, hip, knee and/or glute muscles
  • Flat feet, poor foot arch
  • Unsupportive, or worn-out, footwear (did you know your shoes can expire?)

If you find yourself suffering from this persistent condition, there are a few things you can do to help yourself get on top of the pain and back on your feet.

  1. Avoid activities that aggravate your pain until you see a Physiotherapist – we will help your build a program to progressively get you back doing what you love
  2. Don’t stop everything – keep your body moving in some way, while being conscious to avoid elements that will inflame your shin pain further
  3. Wear proper fitting athletic shoes – consider a shoe store with a fitting specialist, or book a consultation with our Podiatrist, Melanie, to get advice on the optimal shoe for your foot shape and activity
  4. Slowly build your fitness level – our Physiotherapists are experts in managing gradual load increase and will design a personalised program to get you back to full strength, pain-free, as soon as possible
  5. Cross train – alternate activities that are high-impact on your lower limbs with lower impact sports like swimming, or cycling.

An in-room Physiotherapy appointment will address this condition in a few ways:

  • Provide treatment to release affected muscles and improve mobility using massage, dry needling, foam rolling, trigger point ball and stretched to help reduce tension and pain
  • Design a strength program to supplement load tolerance and decrease the loads transferred through the shin
  • Assess your hip, knee & ankle stability – then build a program to help with this
  • Recommend correct footwear to ensure support that suits your running style and sport to avoid excessive loading of the shin bone with impact
  • Assess your running technique to address any load errors

OHL’s group physio classes are another proven way to build strength and lower painful symptoms. In these sessions, your Physiotherapist will lead you through an individualised program in our Strength Lab, to give you the most impactful and efficient progress towards your personal physical needs and goals.

There’s nothing worse than a niggling pain that is stopping you from doing the things you love. If shin pain is taking the spring out of your step, we’d love to help you get right back on track.

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