Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), more commonly known as shin splints, is an overuse injury of lower leg musculature. Shin splints typically occur when too much stress is localised at the tibia (shin) bone causing inflammation of the muscle, tendon, and periosteum (bone lining). Usually, this occurs when there is an increase in physical activity, such as walking uphill, which leads to the musculoskeletal tissues being overworked. If shin splints are not diagnosed and treated early, it may lead to serious complications such as tibial stress fracture or chronic compartment syndrome. At that point, orthopaedic surgery may be required.
Causes of shin splint
Shin splints are often caused by an increase in physical activity, such as when people try to keep their New Year’s resolution of losing weight or working out more after living a more sedate lifestyle previously. This sudden burst of activity causes the muscles around the tibia bone to be overused and fatigued.
Common factors contributing to shin splints are:
- Over-pronation of the foot
- Improper footwear
- Inadequate stretching
- Type of weight bearing surface
Runners are a high-risk group for getting shin splints due to the nature of the sport, as their legs are placed are under repetitive stress. Other groups such as military personnel, active sportspeople and dancers are also at risk of developing shin splints.
Signs and Symptoms
- Pain at the inside edge of the tibia (shin bone), aggravated by manual pressure
- Pain can feel sharp, or dull and aching
- Pain during or after vigorous activity or exercise
- Pain during the mornings which can reduce after warming up
The first line of treatment is to stop all physical activities and use icing to reduce the pain and inflammation around the tibia.
Treatments which are available are:
- Therapeutic ultrasound and extracorporeal shockwave therapy, to reduce pain and stimulate healing
- Stretching exercises
- Custom orthotic insoles
Your podiatrist will further assess your condition and recommend a treatment suitable for resolving your shin splints.