Shin Splints


By: Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT

Image of Shin Splints

What are Shin Splints?

A Shin Splint is a general term that is used to describe pain in the lower leg region. The technical name for the issue is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or MTSS. MTSS is an issue that affects the inside part of the lower leg bone called the Tibia.  It is believed that there are multiple structures involved with the pain including the periosteum (outer layer of the bone) and muscles and tendons along the medial tibia.  

Shin splints can occur with repetitive stress such as running more than 20 miles per week.  Excessive body weight or changing activity can also lead to Shin Splints.  


How Do You Heal Shin Splints?


The quick answer is on how to heal shin splints is to rest them!   Bone and muscle tissue can heal but limiting the excessive forces can allow them to heal faster and better.  Stretching, ice, massage, and anti-inflammatories may also help to improve the pain from shin splints.


How Do You Know if You Have Shin Splints or Not?


Shin splints typically hurt more during and after impactful exercise activity such as running.  Shin splints can cause pain in the hip and shin bones. Shin splints are also common with dancers.  There is typically pain in the inside and the front portion of the shin or tibia.  A physician may diagnose shin splints.  They may order x-rays or other films to rule out other bone or muscle issues.  Other less common  causes of pain in the front of the shins may include:

Shin Splints Shin Splints


What does it Feel Like When You Have Shin Splints?


Shin splints are small tears in the muscle and bone tissue in the front of the shin bone (tibia).  The pain can vary from mild to severe.  Some report that it feels like razor blades in the inside/front of the lower leg.  Others report aching and soreness in the area with exercise.  Shin splints can also be very tender to the touch.  


Can You Still Run with Shin Splints?


Shin splints typically hurt with running.  The impact of running can irritate the micro-tears in the muscles and bone and cause pain to increase.  Pain may increase as running continues.  It is possible to run with shin splints but it may make them worse.  

Running can lead to shin splints in some people. Running allows up to 6X the bodyweight to translate through the shin with every step.  Over time, this force can cause micro-trauma to the muscle and bone tissue in the shins.  

If the arch of the foot is stiff and rigid, the force of running may translate to the shin, which can lead to microtrauma in the muscle and bone tissue in the tibia.  Orthotics may help to reduce the excessive impact forces with running with stiff arches.  


Do Shin Splints go Away?


Shin splints can improve or go away but it is important to address the cause so that they do not return.  This may include

  • Stretching tight calf muscles
  • Orthotics
  • Altering running patterns
  • Strength training for the hip, knee, and ankle
  • Alter G Treadmill 


What Are The Best Shin Splint Stretches?

The quick answer is the best stretches for shin splints is to stretch the calf muscles.  This can be done by standing on a step and dropping the heal off of the step.  Place more weight on that leg to stretch the calf muscles more.  Hold stretches for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.


Does Massage Help Shin Splints?

Massage can help with the pain of shin splints. Massage can break down abnormal scar tissue and promote proper muscle fiber movement.  Massage may be uncomfortable.  It is important to drink lots of water and use ice afterward to limit soreness.


If you have shin splints that will not improve, the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute and JOI Rehabilitation have the answers for you.  JOI offers a thorough evaluation process and treatment options for everyone at all fitness levels.  From custom orthotic fabrication to an expert running analysis, JOI has the answer for your Shin Splint pain.  To schedule an appointment, please call JOI-2000, or schedule online or click below. 

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