Shin splints are a common complaint of runners and other athletes who have just taken up running. Shin splints is a term used to cover all pain in the anterior shin area but there are several possible causes. Medial tibial pain syndrome, the most common cause of shin pain, refers to pain felt over the shin bone from irritation of the tendons that cover the shin and their attachment to the bones. Changes in duration, frequency or intensity of running can lead to this condition.
When the muscle and tendon becomes inflamed and irritated through overuse or improper form, it will cause pain in the front of the shin. Repetitive pounding on the lower leg, such as with running, can also lead to pain in the shin.
Cause of injury
Repetitive stress on the anterior muscle leading to inflammation at its bony attachment to the tibia. Repetitive impact forces on the tibia, as with running and jumping.
Signs and symptoms
Dull, aching pain over the inside of the tibia. Pain is worse with activity. Tenderness over the inner side of the tibia with possible slight swelling.
Complications if left unattended
If left unattended, shin splints can cause extreme pain and cause cessation of running activities. The inflammation can lead to other injuries including compartment syndrome.
RICER. Anti-inflammatory medication. Then heat and massage to promote blood flow and healing.
Rehabilitation and prevention
It is important to use low-impact activities, such as swimming or cycling, to maintain conditioning levels while recovering. Stretching tibialis anterior will aid recovery. To prevent this condition from developing try alternating high-impact activity days with lower-impact days. It is also important to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg to help absorb the shock of impact activities.
Medial tibial pain syndrome can be effectively treated with no long-term effects. Only in rare cases does the condition fail to respond to rest and rehabilitation, leading to chronic inflammation and pain. Surgery may be required in those rare cases.