Students - Shin Splints

Shin splints is the general name given to pain at the front of the lower leg. Shin splints is not a diagnosis in itself but a description of symptoms of which there could be a number of causes.

This site is not meant to be a self diagnosis forum so please visit your general practitioner for advice if you have any concerns, however, the following may be useful to know.

The most common cause is inflammation of the periostium of the tibia (sheath surrounding the bone). Traction forces occur from the muscles of the lower leg on the periostium.

Symptoms of shin splints include:

    • Tenderness over the inside of the shin.
    • Lower leg pain.
    • Sometimes some swelling.
    • Lumps and bumps over the bone.
    • Pain when the toes or foot are bent downwards.
    • A redness over the inside of the shin.

What can the athlete do about shin splints?

    • Rest. The sooner you rest the sooner it will heal.
    • Apply ice or cold therapy in the early stages when it is very painful. Cold therapy reduces pain and inflammation. Cold therapy can be applied. More information about cryotherapy or ice application can be see in shin splints rehabilitation. Click for more detailed information about cold therapy.
    • Wear shock-absorbing insoles in shoes.
    • Maintain fitness with other non weight bearing exercises.
    • Apply heat and use a heat retainer or shin and calf support after the initial acute stage and particularly before training. This can provide support and compression to the lower leg helping to reduce the strain on the muscles. It will also retain the bodies natural heat. Heat causes blood vessels to dilate and increases the flow of blood to the tissues.
    • Visit a sports injury clinic for treatment and rehabilitation.

What can a sports injury clinic or doctor do?

    • Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication e.g. ibuprofen. (Always consult a doctor before taking medication).
    • Tape the ankle for support. - A taping worn all day will allow the shin to rest properly by taking the pressure off the muscle attachments.
    • Analyse running style for over pronation and other biomechanical problems of the foot.
    • Use sports massage techniques on the posterior deep muscle compartment but avoid the inflamed periostium.
    • Operate.

Important

    • Anti inflammatory drugs along with rest and ice can help reduce inflammation, particularly in the early stages. However if the underlying causes such as tight muscles are not treated through stretching and sports massage techniques then the likely hood of the injury returning is higher.

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