What are Shin Splints?

What are Shin Splints?

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

Shin splints is the umbrella term to cover a variety of pathologies that affect the shin bone (the tibia). Nearby tendons and connective tissue can cause shin related pains, but the medical terminology for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is a common injury specific to those who exercise. It occurs due to excessive muscular traction of the tibial periostium by the calf muscles (tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus and soleus). Most imaging is generally not helpful with diagnosing this condition. MRI or bone scan can be used, however is usually not necessary as an assessment in clinic is almost always sufficient.


Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain along the lower 2/3 of the medial (middle) and posterior (behind) aspect of the tibia bone in the leg
  • Gradual and progressive onset of pain
  • Pain at the beginning of activity, which then subsides during the warm up and returns again with continued activity. In severe cases pain may continue during cool down and even at rest or during day to day activities such as walking.
  • Increased pain with higher intensity movements (sprinting and jumping)
  • Pain during stretching of the calf or inner leg muscles


Risk Factors include:

  • A sudden increase in the amount or intensity of activity
  • Abnormal foot or lower limb biomechanics
  • Exercising on hard surfaces
  • Poor footwear or footwear that is inappropriate for the desired activity
  • Weakness of the leg muscles
  • Abnormal running/walking technique
  • Overweight


Treatment can include:

  • Modified rest until pain subsides followed by a gradual return to activity- this is so we reduce load through the tibia
  • Ice and/or a short course of NSAIDS to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Identifying and eliminating contributing biomechanical factors
  • Strengthening of weak muscles – paying particular attention to the soleus, FDL and tibialis posterior
  • Changes to poor footwear, or footwear that is inappropriate for the designated activity
  • Compression therapy
  • Orthoses to reduce excessive/abnormal muscle traction
  • Running technique correction
  • Shockwave or Laser therapy
  • Weight loss (if overweight)
  • Surgery- in cases that do not respond to above treatments


Recovery time is often between 2-3 months however can take up to 18 months for complete resolution.

If exercise is causing pain or discomfort, either during or after activity, we highly recommend you book in to see a Podiatrist for a full lower limb assessment. Call 8941 9955 to make an appointment at Darwin Podiatry today.

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