Shin splints is a laymens term for medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). MTSS can be a very painful condition and also very disabling.
MTSS is generaly an overuse injury when the muscle pulls on the bone through the periosteum. Muscles and tendons attach to the bone via a layer of connective tissue over the bone which is called the periosteum. When muscles contract, they pull on the tendons which in turn pulls on this periosteum making it inflammed and painful. This can happen with overuse, poor biomechanics (rolling feet in) or excessive muscles tightness.
Pain is usually felt along the inside border of the tibia (shin bone). It can be painful as you start exercising and pain may decrease as you warm up, however excessive strain of this over long period of time may mean the pain is present most of the time.
If you suspect you have MTSS, you should see your sports medicine professional or podiatrist. The condition will not resolve on its not treated and you continue to exercises. Prolonged strain without appropriate treatment can sometimes result in stress fractures of the tibia. A few common options with treatment include:
- Icing: along the inside border especially after exercises
- Exercises: your podiatrist can advise you on specific exercises to help treat the condition
- Massage: helps to break down scar tissue formation followed by icing to help reduce post-massage pain
- Activitiy modification: this may be necessary in some instances to help resolve the condition sooner and avoid long term damage
- Orthotics: custom made orthotics to suit your foot can help significantly to reduce the pain, resolve the condition and help in preventing the condition.
- Footwear: your footwear needs to be assessed to advise you if they are right for you and your activities.