I was inspired to write this blog article after seeing a bunch of high level athletes at my football club develop persistent shin splints during pre-season. Some of these injuries are still reccurring during the season and have had some debilitating outcomes on performance.
As a Podiatrist and an athlete, I would love to help you manage (and preferably avoid!) shin splints and provide you with some tips and insights into treatment strategies.
Shin splints, technically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) refers to a dull aching pain experienced along the posteromedial border of the tibia/shin bone and is usually elicited with the onset of exercise or in the mornings.
Muscles become overworked, creating microtears in the muscle belly and bone tissue. Shin splints are commonly encountered in high intensity sports requiring sudden changes in direction and can also present as an overuse injury in runners and sprinters.
Excessive forces that the muscles are placed under cause the muscles to swell therefore increasing pressure on the tibia/shin bone.
Shin Splint is a common overuse injury that is caused by a combination between poor lower limb biomechanics and also excessive pressure through the region.
“Too much too soon” is a common phrase used when referring to the cause of shin splints, meaning that a sudden increase in physical activity can lead to overuse injuries in muscular structures.
Overpronation (rolling in) of the foot is another common cause of shin splints as this creates a muscle imbalance in foot pressure on the medial (inside) of the foot. This creates stress on the shinbone.
Depending on the severity of the condition and the stage of the shin splints, as well as how long you have had it for and the intensity of pain, I have outlined some strategies to treat your shin splints.
Tools that are required:
Modification in training load:
It is important to adjust training load, surfaces, intensity and frequency.
Depending on the symptoms and severity of the condition, stretching and mobility techniques are a great starting point.
Usually the best rule of thumb is to commence strength training once the pain has subsided and is below a 5/10. Strengthening exercises are a great way to build up the capacity in the calf muscle and tibialis anterior leg muscles in order to physically prepare them for a full return to the sport.
By restoring the ability of the muscles to withstand more load and power, this can prevent the shin splints from reoccurring.
Calf raises: Facing a wall and holding with fingertips, go up onto your toes and back down. Start with 10-15 reps x 2 sets and increase reps and sets when this becomes comfortable.
If there is pain performing these resort to isometric calf holds- holding at the top on toes for 30secs x 2 sets.
Single leg calf raises: Following the instructions outlined above, these can be performed on one leg in order to increase the load through the structures.
Dorsiflexion/plantarflexion: This targets the anterior (front) and posterior (back) muscle compartments. Lying down, place theroband at base of toes and point toes upwards and downwards. Repeat 10-15 times x 2 sets to start with.
Tibialis Posterior: Also strengthens the calf musculature, specifically the tib post tendon. Tie a knot in the theraband
It is important to read your body and to allow yourself to rest when you experience niggles, aches and pains that prevent you from completing a full training session or run.