Shin splints is a term used to describe several conditions due to inflammation of the muscle and tendon attachments to the lower leg bone (tibia). Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is also used to describe shin splints. The term shin splints should not be used to describe specific tenderness on one area of the bone such as a possible stress fracture. Shin splints are characterized by pain and tenderness along the inner aspect of the lower 2/3 of the tibia. The posterior tibialis and soleus muscles attach to the tibia in this area. The function of these muscles is to support the arch of the foot and to help the calf muscles direct the foot. Shin splints are usually due to repetitive use of these muscles, resulting in an inflammation at their attachment sites on the bone.
This term usually applies to pain in the front of the leg, occurring anywhere between the ankle and the knee. However, it can also refer to pain in the inner side of the lower leg. Walking, running, or jumping usually initiates the pain in both of these areas. In extreme cases one can have pain in these areas while just standing still.
Symptoms: There are two types of shin splints:
- Anterior Shin Splints (pain in the front of the lower leg, on the shin bone or tibia).
- Posterior Shin Splints or Medial Shin Splints produces pain in the inside of the leg (on the inner surface of the shin bone or tibia).
Pain in both of these areas usually begins as a dull aching pain after prolonged walking, running, or jumping. If left untreated, the pain becomes sharp and intense with all weight-bearing activities. The pain may become so intense that people describe the pain as "if the muscle is being ripped off of my bone." Rest generally relieves the pain. Other serious problems of the lower leg, such as stress fractures, are usually painful even while resting.
Anterior Shin Splints: The muscle in the front of the leg that usually becomes painful is the Tibialis Anterior Muscle, which is encased in a thin sheath. This muscle attaches to the foot, and flexes your foot upward, or back towards the shin; and as long as the foot is in proper alignment with the leg, the muscle functions efficiently and pain-free. However, when the foot is pronated (the foot rolls outward at the ankle and you walk more on its inner aspect), the Tibialis Anterior Muscle twists within its sheath. This twisting of the muscle within its sheath can cause tiny tears in the muscle, or the muscle rubs abnormally against its sheath, and produces inflammation and pain.
Posterior Shin Splints: The muscles most affected in this type of pain are the Soleus and the Tibialis Posterior. In the leg, these muscles are firmly attached around the back of the knee. They run down the back and inner side (medial side) of the leg, and attach to the foot. If the foot is in a proper alignment to the leg, these muscles function efficiently and pain-free. However, when the foot is pronated (the foot rolls outward at the ankle and you walk more on the inner aspect of the foot), these muscles are forced to become twisted as they attach to their respective foot structures. The twisting of these muscles can cause tiny tears in the muscles, or the muscles become "pulled" and inflamed. This will produce pain.
Causes of Anterior and Posterior Shin Splints: On of the main causes of these injuries is pronation. This is a biomechanical defect of the foot that is sometimes responsible for pain in the foot, ankle, leg, knee, hip, and lower back. For more information about pronation, click here. When pronation is present, the Tibialis Anterior, Soleus, and Tibialis Posterior muscles overwork in an attempt to maintain the foot in a normal alignment with the leg. When this normal alignment is not maintained, then the foot becomes unstable. This instability of the foot cause more stress on the leg muscles. This continued "over usage" by the leg muscles will cause pain, swelling, tears within the muscle, and eventually the muscle will tear away from the tibia (the shin), or stress fractures will occur. It has been suggested that some in cases of shin splints, that the periosteum over the tibia may separate from the bone creating the pain until it reattaches itself.
Temporary Relief and Permanent Cure:
1. Temporary Relief:
- Rest with elevation of the leg is necessary to reduce the pain and inflammation.
Cold therapy will help (mild and comfortable cooling of the leg) for short periods of time.
- Gentle massage with a topical pain reliever can help to provide comfort. By combining the pain relieving properties of Tripod Labs Flexstat Topical Pain Reliever with gentle massage, pain, swelling, and inflammation can be reduced or eliminated.
- Mild compression to the painful area. The Shin Splint Compression Sleeve works by providing gentle compression forces while firmly supporting the lower leg muscles and soft tissue. The sleeve also tends to stimulate circulation and maintain warmth that controls fluid build-up.
2. Permanent Cure: If the problem persists, or if you want to prevent re-occurrence and remain active, this can often be accomplished by the use of custom-made orthotics. Custom-made orthotics will help realign your feet, while correcting pronation. When your foot is stabilized, the leg muscles do not need to perform this function, and they are less likely to become "overused." This removes the main cause of shin splints; the orthotics will help stabilize the feet, not the leg muscles. This allows the leg muscles to move you forward without pain, inflammation, and muscle tears. Our custom-made orthotics will also provide you with the proper padding, support, and shock-absorbency needed to help prevent other foot problems from occurring. If you have tried other methods of treatment, and they have failed, custom-made orthotics may be the answer to your problem. It is no coincidence that serious amateur athletes, as well as many professional athletes, wear custom-made orthotics to keep them pain free and to remain active.