The quick answer is that shin splints are defined as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It usually appears as pain at the inside border of the tibia (lower leg bone) and calf. It usually starts as pain after running and is painful to the touch. If you continue to run with shin splints, the pain can become more consistent and hurt while running or even walking. Some people report a burning sensation. Prolonged or repetitive shin splints can eventually evolve into tibial stress fractures. Stress fractures can lead even more time off of running, usually at least 6 weeks.
The muscles which are involved with Shin Splints are the Tibialis Anterior and the Posterior Tibialis muscles.
Shin splints are more likely with new or inexperienced runners. Women are 2-3 times more likely than men to have shin splints. Those who have little athletic history are more likely to develop shin problems associated with running.
Recent CT scan studies suggest the tibia of these runners have pockets of low bone density at the location of pain. Once these runners have recovered, the pockets of low bone density disappear. In contrast, those with tibial stress fractures, show larger areas of lowered bone densities around the area of the fracture. This suggests that the cause of shin splints is due to the bending of the bone while being loaded, rather than the straight-on impact.
Shins splints can occur with other activities besides running as well. Early in the training and conditioning phase of other sports, shin splints can affect many athletes.
In a less experienced runner, the tibia is no use to the stress placed on it from the impact of running. This results in the lack of bone formation around the area of stress. The bone remodeling takes weeks to complete, which is needed to have the bone strong tolerate the stress of running.
Other issues from running may include:
If any of these occur, it is a good idea to see a doctor or physical therapist to assess the issue.
Pain along the inside aspect of the tibia or the shin bone. Usually, the pain is described as achy. The pain is present at the start of activities and then gets better. However, the pain returns afterwards.
Shin splints can be very painful and frustrating to treat. Time and rest are the ultimate healers. If pain is persistent, make sure you seek assistance to diagnosis a possible stress fracture or compartment syndrome. If Shin Splints are limiting your running or participation in other sports, please give JOI a call.
To schedule an appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Physician, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.