Shin splints

Shin splints

Shin splints is a term referring to pain on the front or inside of the shin. It is a very common injury in people new to sport, for those who are increasing their training load, training on hard surfaces, or people who walk alot.

It should be noted that not all shin pain is from shin splints. An example of conditions which you may mistake for shin splints are a shin stress fracture, and compartment syndrome (which is a swelling within the compartments around the shin bone). Both of these can potentially be quite serious so it is important to get an assessment to confirm your diagnosis.

There are a number of things that can lead to shin splints, here are some of the common ones:

1. Training approach: stepping up your training too quickly (going from “Zero to Hero”) is a very easy way to get injured. Injuries happen when the strain we put on our bodies is too much for our tissues to withstand.

If you are new to exercise, make sure you start small and build up gradually.

Factor in rest days, and follow a training programme if you are starting something new like running.

If you are increasing your training load, ask yourself:

- Is you body ready for this increase?

- Have you built up steadily over the last few months? If so, increase you mileage or your intensity of sessions in one discipline at a time. 10% a week is a good guide, and this means a 10% increase in either intensity or mileage, not both!

2. Training surface: training all of the time on hard surfaces increases the risk of getting injuries such as shin splints, so try to vary the surface you are training on.

If you walk/run on a road has an obvious camber, make sure you alter the side you walk on or go out and back on the same side (so that the same leg is not always hitting a lower ground).

If you train on a track, alternate direction.

3. Footwear

The importance of footwear cannot be over-estimated- many overuse injuries can be caused purely from problems with footwear, please see our ‘Footwear’ section for more details. Click here >>>>

4. Muscle strength and flexibility

Better strength in the muscles of your trunk will help to hold good posture and maintain good alignment of your legs while exercising. Therefore doing regular exercises to improve your strength and core stability will reduce your risk of injury. If you are unsure as to what you should be doing, we can help design a programme to suit your activity and your specific areas of weakness.

4. Warm-up and cool-down

Before you run, walk or train, your tissues need to be warmed-up, for example doing a light jog/brisk walk, anything that gets the blood flowing. A common misconception is that people need to spend a lot of time stretching before they run- in fact static stretching is more important as part of your cool-down and recovery. Adequate time needs to be allowed for both the warm-up and cool-down- this can vary from 5-15 minutes, but make sure you feel the benefit before you stop.

Here are some useful stretches:

Treatment of shin splints

If you feel shin splints developing, the sooner you rest or pull back from training, the quicker they will heal. Ice your shin to reduce inflammation.Here are stretches that very often help, holding for a minimum of 20 seconds, and doing at least 3 times.

The team at East Coast Physio looked after some of my patients that I treated surgically or non-operatively. The feed-back I receive from patients about their experience through the East Coast Physio practice is consistently excellent. I feel confident to recommend Catherine, Fiona or Roisin to my patients as I know they will receive excellent care.

Dr. Mihai Vioreanu
Hip & Knee Specialist, Sports Surgery Clinic, Santry