What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, medically termed Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, is a common overuse injury that affects runners, athletes, and dancers. It is caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone lining (periosteum) in the shinbone (tibia).

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Overview

Shin splints typically occur when there is a sudden increase in physical activity, leading to the musculoskeletal tissues becoming overworked. The pain is usually felt along the inner edge of the lower leg and can be dull, throbbing, or sharp. It may be worse after exercise or when walking up stairs.

Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints are often caused by an increase of intensity or duration of physical activities too quickly, such as working out and doing sports. This sudden burst of activities can cause the muscles around the tibia bone to be overused and fatigued, resulting in pain.

It results from the overuse or repetitive stress placed on the shinbone and its surrounding tissues.

Other common factors that contribute to shin splints include:

  • Overtraining
  • Biomechanical abnormalities such as having flat feet or high arches
  • Unsupportive and improper footwear
  • Inadequate stretching
  • Muscle weakness

Symptoms

The symptoms of shin splints include pain and tenderness along the inner side of the shin, usually manifesting as a dull, aching discomfort. Pain may be more pronounced at the beginning of an activity and can diminish with rest, only to return afterward.

What to do if you suspect that you have shin splints?

If you suspect that you have shin splints, it is important to rest and avoid activities that aggravate the pain.

You can also apply ice on the affected area and take over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation. If the pain is severe or does not improve with rest, you should seek help from a podiatrist and receive medical attention.  

Shin splints can also be a symptom of more serious conditions, such as tendonitis, longitudinal tendon tears or stress fractures.

How can shin splints be managed?

A comprehensive care approach which includes a thorough musculoskeletal assessment, physical examination, and diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, and X-rays is done to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Thereafter, your podiatrist will be able to recommend a suitable care plan to address your shin splints effectively.

Non-invasive methods your podiatrist may use include:

  • Super-inductive therapy (SIS)
  • Focal and radial extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)
  • Stretching exercises
  • Custom orthotic insoles

Shin splints can become more painful and persist over time if not managed properly. The main risks associated with shin splints are stress fractures, nerve pain, and muscle compression. If the pain becomes more noticeable or does not improve, it is important to seek a foot specialist or podiatrist promptly.

Serious complications, such as tibial stress fractures or chronic compartment syndrome, may arise if shin splints are not diagnosed and managed promptly. In some cases, orthopaedic or reconstructive surgery may necessary to address these complications. Early intervention to a care plan is essential to prevent the progression of shin splints and the associated complications.

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Common Symptoms

Pain at the inside edge of the tibia (shin bone)
Pain that is aggravated by manual pressure
Sharp, or dull and aching pain
Pain during or after vigorous activity
Tingling and numbness radiating from the shin to the foot

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I loove badminton but started getting shin pain 2-3 months ago. Turns out that I was not wearing the right type of shoes (needed real badminton shoes and did not know about my pronasion) so I had to wear insoles. Now I find it hard to play without my insoles. It was super beneficial. No pain no more!

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Our Podiatry Care Strategy

100% non-invasive methods to improve your ankle in 4-8 weeks

An ankle specialist, such as a podiatrist, will be able to perform a thorough foot assessment using diagnostic tools, such as a musculoskeletal diagnostic ultrasound to determine the source of your ankle pain. If surgery is required, your podiatrist will refer you to a trusted foot and ankle doctor for surgical solutions.

A thorough assessment of your ankle

Immobilising the area with splints

Utilising technological therapies

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Podiatrist

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