Do you get pain in your legs when you run or exercise?

Do you think you have shin splints and want to know more about them and how to treat them?

Shin splints is an umbrella term for exercise-induced leg pain. There are many conditions that can cause leg pain and shin splints are often confused with or referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). MTSS is often characterised by pain in the medial side of the shin bone. However, that’s not the only thing that can cause symptoms in that area. Conditions such as compartment syndrome or tibial stress fracture can cause leg pain as well.

A thorough clinical examination is essential to make sure that you have the correct diagnosis which will help to create the correct treatment plan.

Types of shin splints

  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS)
  • Medial Tibial Stress Fracture (MTSF)

As mentioned, the most common cause of shin splints we see is MTSS. Here is your chance to learn more about this condition and how we can help you.

What are shin splints?

Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), commonly referred to as shin splints, is an inflammation on muscle tendons and bone tissues around the tibia. The pain occurs in the tibia where the muscles attach to the bones.

MTSS is a common leg pain condition among competitive athletes and runners, and most of the time the cause is unknown.

Most individuals who have symptoms from MTSS are active people, who either run or participate in jumping activities such as dancing. It’s a common athletic injury affecting 9-17% of runners, and 22% of injuries in dancers. It is a self-limiting condition and does resolve with rest.

Symptoms of shin splits

  • Tenderness, soreness, or pain along the inner side of your shinbone during exercise
  • Mild swelling in your lower leg
  • Pain often diminishes upon stopping exercise
  • However sometimes pain can continue during exercise which can be indicative of a medial tibial stress fracture (MTSF)

what causes shin splints?

MTSS can be caused by various activities. It is an overuse injury caused by repetitive microtrauma on the tibia which leads to a stress reaction injury within the bone.

Excessive stress on the tibia can cause it to bend during activities and will over time cause excessive stress in the bone resulting in injury. Foot biomechanics such as a flat feet and a forefoot varus can also be factors.

causes of shin splints

Risk Factors of Shin Splints

There are many risk factors that can lead to developing shin splints:

  • Being Female: women are at least twice more likely to develop shin splints than men.
  • Being Athlete Triad: disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis
  • Training errors: frequency, duration, intensity etc
  • Surface type and inclination
  • Footwear: type shoe and age of footwear (worn out shoes loss support)
  • Bone shape and density
  • Biomechanics: forefoot varus or flat feet
  • Diet
  • Previous injuries
podiatrist sydney

Podiatrist can help assess your leg pain and help find the correct diagnosis for the splints you are experiencing and implement a personalised treatment plan.

How to treat shin splints?

Treatment of MTSS is multifactorial and can take up to 4 months to resolve can consist of the following:

  • Icing in initial stages
  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Modify training
  • Footwear review and changes
  • In-shoe padding
  • Strength training
  • Custom orthotics
  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Taping
  • Nutritional assessment
shin pain when running

Custom orthotics for shin splints

Custom orthotics can be used to effectively treat MTSS by addressing biomechanical factors such as flat feet (foot pronation) and forefoot varus. Foot pronation and forefoot varus are associated with an increased risk of developing MTSS or even MTSF.

Custom orthotics help alter and redistribute forces acting on the feet which reduces foot pronation and further reduces bending of the tibia. Also adding a wedge on the orthotics can help realign the foot and the tibia which will further reduce bending stress on this bone.

orthotic shin splints

Cost

Biomechanical Assessment

$120
Initial appointment
Medical history, patient history
Footwear assessment
Treatment plan
Private health insurance rebates

Custom Made Orthotics

$490Total
3D foot scanning or plastering of feet
1 pair of custom-made orthotics
Orthotic fitting appointment: $50
3-month orthotic repair guarantee
30% discount on second pair

complications of shin splints

If left unresolved, MTSS can lead to a stress fracture of the tibia.

how do you prevent shin splints?

Long term management of MTSS is based on prevention. There is no one preventative measure that is consistently effective, so prevention is a combination of different things. 

Here are some of the ways you can prevent shin splints:

  • Avoid training errors: return to sport gradually sudden increases in exercise frequency and intensity can lead to injury.
  • Exercise on level surface: irregular surfaces such as grass or sand can cause more stress on the tibia. Exercise on level surface with firmness to reduce risk of injury.
  • Footwear: change your running shoes when they are worn out.
  • Strengthen training: muscle fatigue following strenuous exercise, or an underlying weakness can lead to MTSS.
  • Biomechanics: address biomechanical issues with orthotics.
  • Diet

frequently asked questions

Rest and changing activity can help treat shin splints. Consider cycling, swimming, hydrotherapy, or upper body exercises.

In the initial stages of shin splints, icing is recommended.

Shin splints can take up to six months to heal.

If your shin splints are in the initial stages, oral NSAIDS can help treat symptoms.

There are many treatments you can do at home to help with shin splints. Examples include:

  • Rest
  • Icing
  • Changing your footwear

Treatment for shin splints is non-invasive and is often implemented by patients at home.

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