Shin splints are relatively common, and commonly misleadingly termed as shin pain that is experienced during running.
It can be misleading and most sports medicine professionals try to not use the term because "shin pain" and "shin splints" can be caused by different conditions.
Traction Periostitis (MTTP) is the accurate medical term used to describe Shin
Splints, and it refers to an inflammatory condition of the front part of the shin
bone called the tibia.
Patients suffering from MTTP will experience discomfort and pain on the inner border of the shin (medial Tibial border) during and after exercise. It is important to be able to tell MTTP from other causes of shin pain (‘Shin Splints’) such as Compartment Syndrome or Tibial Stress Fracture.
MTTP clinically and usually presents with pain (dull ache) and palpable tenderness along the inside of the lower leg. In the beginning, patients may experience pain/ache early in running, and the pain decreases with continued activity. However, as the condition progresses pain may be present throughout the activity.
The pain experience with MTTP is mainly caused by excessive pressure on the
lower leg muscles...for example running a lot on hard surfaces or increasing your
training load/intensity too quickly is a common issue (too hard too fast)
For the immediate treatment of symptoms Cold therapy is a very effective form of pain relief, and more importantly, most patients respond well to non-operative treatment. This includes adequate rest, strengthening and stretching exercises, followed by a gradual return to running after symptoms subside.
In order to help prevent this condition from coming back, a bio-mechanical analysis (an analysis of posture at rest and during walking and running) with our specialist physios should be undertaken to identify and pick up any factors that may be making a person susceptible/aggravating MTTP, so that they can be corrected before a return to activity.
Muscle imbalance and leg length inequality are common causes of mal-alignment that can be picked up during the physiotherapy assessment. A common cause of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is Flat Feet. These would be identified during bio-mechanical assessment and analysis.
When our foot pronates (this means to walk or run with most of the weight on the inside edge of the feet). at an increased speed, what happens is that it puts unnecessary and additional pressure on the muscles along the front and side of the leg. Over time, this leads to overuse syndrome, stress fractures and ischaemic pain associated with increased compartmental pressure.
Arch supporting orthotics insoles is very effective in remedying this problem but must be clinically and customized instead of being off-the-shelf/retail because there are many different types and some can make you worse rather than better.
All cases of shin pains should be properly assessed by a Specialist Physiotherapist.