Injury Prevention 101: Shin Splints

Photo by Matt Stanley

Photo by Matt Stanley

What’s the scoop on shin splints? “Shin splints” is a commonly used term that describes several specific injuries. The majority of people suffering from “shin splints” have (MTSS) medial tibial stress syndromeMTSS is characterized by pain on either the medial/inside or anterior/outside of the shin. This post is intended for people struggling with this type of “shin splints.”

Think you have a case of shin splints? Continue reading to learn more! 


Note: Some shin injuries are more serious and likely require consultation from a doctor or physical therapist. Severe pain, pressure and/or swelling on the anterior part of the shin may be a sign of compartment syndrome. Specific medical procedures are required to diagnose this injury. Localized pain on the lower part of the shin could be a stress fracture/reaction. If the area is very painful to the touch, this could be a sign of a stress fracture/reaction.

Causes:

  1. Overpronation/Supination – Excessive rotation or movement can stress the muscles on both the inside and outside of the shin. Medial shin pain is likely caused by overpronation.
  2. Worn out/improper footwear – This is why we are here! We can get you in the right shoes for your stride to help reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Over Training – More specifically, building up too quickly. Shin splints often occur as people are building up mileage and their lower leg muscles have yet to adjust to the increased workload.
  4. Tissue Tightness – Tightness in your calves, Achilles, tibialis posterior and tibialis anterior can cause significant shin pain.
  5. Eccentric Heel/toe offsets – “Barefoot” inspired footwear puts more of an emphasis on these aforementioned lower leg muscles.

Prevention and Treatment:

  1. Rest – Don’t be afraid to take a few days off or to modify your training in order to slow your buildup. Your long-term health is more important than your long run!
  2. Self Massage – Use any sort of massage tool work out the tension and tightness in the muscles surrounding your shins. My personal favorite is the Addaday Type C Roller (addaday.com).
  3. Stretching/dorsiflexion – Work on stretching these same muscles and tendons to increase dorsiflexion and overall mobility. Check out athletestreatingathletes.com for some good suggestions.
  4. Shoes – Stop on by and we will get you outfitted in the best shoes for you and your ailing shins!
  5. Inserts – Superfeet (superfeet.com) are great for overpronators and supinators who could use some additional support to treat and prevent shin splints and other common running related injuries.
  6. Compression – Compression sleeves and socks can help reduce muscle vibration and increase blood flow to the injured area.  I prefer sleeves for running and socks for some much needed post-run recovery.
  7. Ice – Freeze a Styrofoam cup with water. Peel off any excess Styrofoam from the top and rub the frozen water up and down your shin. Do this for 5-10 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if your area temporarily goes numb!
  8. If none of these suggestions seem to help please consult Excel Physical Therapy (excelphysicaltherapy.com)  for some professional medical expertise.