When shin pain occurs during running, the condition is commonly referred to as Shin Splints. However, sports medicine professionals refrain from using the term since it can be misleading. People often assume that shin pain and ‘Shin Splint’ are synonymous terms. However, both may actually be mere indicators of a variety of other conditions. Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is one of the prevalent skin conditions which have been referred to as ‘Shin Splints’.
Gymnasts, Soccer players, dancers, distance runners and military recruits have all been reported to have a high occurrence of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. This syndrome is classified according to which shin tissue it affects:
– This occurs when there is the inside border of the shin bone creates a stress reaction. This stress reaction usually signals a stress fracture.
– This type happens when an irritation persists on the point in the shin bone where the Soleus and Tibialis Posterior Muscles are attached.
Commonly caused by overuse, The Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome typically affects people who regularly run on hard and/or uneven surfaces. However, the risk of developing the syndrome may be increased by a range of other factors such as the altered posture of the foot, knee and hip.
Shin Splints Signs & Symptoms
For those afflicted with the Medial Tibial Syndrome, the duration as well as the end of a workout will produce a feeling of pain coming from the inner border of the shin. However, a proper diagnosis of Medial Stress Syndrome may only be made once Compartment Syndrome, Tibial Stress Fracture and other sources of shin pain are effectively ruled out. Confirming the diagnosis will entail a complicated process of investigations. With the supervision of a sports physician or orthopaedic doctor, bone scans and compartment pressure tests may be utilized.
Shin Splints Treatment
What you can do
Ice therapy is an ideal way to give immediate pain relief to the injured person. Applying ice packs directly to the skin may cause ice burns so extra care is needed when implementing this form of treatment. Moreover, pain will be effectively alleviated if the initial treatment of this injury is guided by the PRICE protocol: protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. As for the ice packs, they must be applied every few hours, for twenty minutes each time. If the pain continues to persist, pain-relieving medicines and anti-inflammatory gels may be used.
In many patients, symptoms are easily treated without surgery. With rest, the patients will also engage on exercises designed to improve their flexibility and strength. Gradually, the symptoms will subside and the patient will be able to return to activities like running. A physiotherapist or podiatrist may also perform a bio-mechanical analysis, a procedure that examines the posture of the shin during rest and while walking as well as running. This analysis will help prevent the recurrence of the injury since it can reveal the factors that may be increasing the patient’s risk to Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. As a result, measures may immediately be implemented to correct the detected injuries.
A physiotherapy analysis may also detect the presence of muscle imbalance, leg length inequality as well as other causes of mal-alignment.
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is also usually caused by other conditions such as that of pes planus or flat-footedness. Another common cause is the pronated foot position, a condition in which running causes the arch of the foot to be lowered involuntarily. This produces pain since the lowered arch increases strain on the Tibialis posterior muscle which in turn pulls on the inside of the shin. This condition and many others can effectively be diagnosed through a bio-mechanical analysis.
Continuing with exercise or any physical activity may worsen any existing shin condition so it is advisable to get a chartered physiotherapist or orthopaedic consultant to assess the shin pain immediately. However, if the patient wants to maintain fitness during treatment of the injury, non-weight bearing exercises in the pool may be ideal. In order to have a low-impact workout while allowing the injury to heal, the patient may opt to use a buoyancy belt in order to do some running exercises in the pool. The buoyancy belt will keep the patient’s feet from touching the floor of the pool, effectively eliminating any possible strain on the injured leg.
In the instance that a doctor finds that the shin pain is actually a soft tissue problem, the patient may uses a compression sleeve. The sleeve will allow them to run while continuing with the treatment of the injury. While running, the sleeve will limit the pull of the muscles on the shin, thus reducing stress. Although compression sleeves do not present s cure, they can reduce symptoms while allowing the runners to engage in some level of physical activity.
If the Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome does not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be considered.
Shin Splints Prevention
What you can do
Typical of injuries involving overuse, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome results from untimely participation in excessive physical activity. Physical activity must always increase gradually especially when starting or altering a fitness regimen. For instance, when a runner suddenly decides to run for 10 miles today even though his usual routine calls for only 2 miles of running, he inevitably puts his body at risk. Such a danger can be prevented through the maintenance of a running log.
The use of running shoes with Shock Absorbing Insoles will provide better support and help reduce the stress placed on the shins. Correction of activities like flat feet and fallen arches may also prevent the development of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. If fallen arches seem to contribute to shin pain, the Aircast AirLift may be used to provide better support. The Aircast AirLift utilizes aircells which lift the arch of the foot, this results in considerably less pressure on the arch and on the Tibialis Posterior Tendon.