What is Shin Splits?
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) or better known as Shin Splints is a common injury among runners and dancers. “Shin Splints” is a term all too commonly heard within the athletic circles, but what exactly is it and what can be done about it?
Shin Splints is typically an overuse injury arising from inappropriate training loads, training form or body biomechanics. It is generally seen in running (sprinting, middle- distance and long distance) and jumping (dancing and football) populations and is characterised by exercise induced pain along the lower third of the inside border of the tibia (shinbone).
What causes Shin Splints?
The pain from Shin Splints is thought to arise from inflammation of the lining of the shin bone. This pain is normally seen during the beginning of exercise and will typically warm up. Continual over-load and inflammation increases the risk of potential stress fractures to the area which is typically characterized by shin pain that does not warm up and pain at rest or light activity.
Shin Splints are typically caused from training over-load or overuse. This is achieved through sudden and excessive increases to training loads. Examples of this might be increasing your training days, your training times or returning to the same level of exercise after an extended break.
Other contributing factors to Shin Splints include:
· Foot structure - Flat feet can yank on the muscles and tendons of the shin which causes unnecessary pressure and pull in the shin area.
· Incorrect technique - Poor running form, such as ‘rolling’ the feet inwards (pronation) or a skinny base of support (short width between steps) can affect the shins.
· High impact activities - The impact of running on hard or uneven surfaces can injure the shin muscles and tendons.
· Running shoes - Wearing the wrong type of shoe while running can contribute to shin splints.
What can you do for shin splints?
The stage in which rehabilitation begins is very much dependent upon the stage of injury the athlete is experiencing. This is why consulting a Physiotherapist is recommended to assist in rehabilitation. This can be split into 2 phases; an acute and subacute phase.
Acute Phase - 2-6 weeks:
This phase is characterised by an offload of the aggravating activities and resting. During this phase the athlete is encouraged to rest as much as they can, apply ice to the affected areas and to consult their GP or Pharmacist regarding some anti-inflammatories. They are also urged to complete low impact exercise to maintain strength and fitness. This may include swimming or cycling.
Subacute Phase - 4+ weeks:
Treatment consists of gradual introduction to training loads, frequency, intensity and duration. Biomechanical alterations to technique are generally addressed early in this phase to ensure rehabilitation can remain pain free. Treatment can include:
· A graded return to sport program.
· Lower limb strengthening with an emphasis on calf and foot strength.
· Balance and proprioceptive training.
· Potential involvement of a Podiatrist for foot biomechanics correction.
· Potential involvement of an Exercise Physiologist for running technique modification.
How can I prevent Shin Splints?
· Ensure a proper warm up and cool down are included in all your sessions.
· Incorporate a regular routine of stretching into your fitness program.
· Strengthen the muscles of your lower legs with specific exercises, in addition to regular training.
· Ensure proper footwear is worn for your foot type. Consult a Podiatrist if you are unsure.
· Mix up training with some low impact activities such as swimming, cycling and walking.