Shin splints is the common name for a condition known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). This is the umbrella term used to describe pain felt in the inner (medial) part of the shin bone (tibia) that is often felt during exercise involving impact loading, for example running and jumping sports such as basketball. Pain in the medial shin can be a sign of training error, resulting in overload of the tibia from overuse (such as training for a marathon) or from a sudden increase in load after a period of rest (such as returning to training post injury/illness/holiday. There may also be biomechanical factors that can predispose a person to feeling pain in the shin, for example overpronation or collapsing of the medial arches of the foot. Weakness in particular muscles may also be a contributing factor. Pain in the shin can range in severity from tightness of the muscles in this area to periostitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding bone), a bone stress reaction to a stress fracture.
What should I do if I have shin splints/shin pain?
If you have pain in the shin, a thorough assessment by a physiotherapist is required to determine the severity of the condition and to devise an appropriate management plan. In some cases, if there is a presentation of a more significant issue such as a stress reaction or stress fracture, a scan may be needed to make an accurate diagnosis and to help guide management. Often, however, this won’t be required and your physiotherapist will be able to guide you through the recovery process. Treatment will usually involve load modification involving complete or relative rest from aggravating activities, with a gradual reload to allow for all tissues to adapt to the forces applied to them. A physiotherapist will also address any other contributing factors to your pain. This includes correcting biomechanics so that the medial tibia isn’t overloaded through the use of tape, footwear or orthotics. Additionally, muscle weaknesses and imbalances will be addressed. These include both muscles local to the area of pain, such as the gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis posterior, and muscles further up the chain that influence loading of the medial shin, such as the gluteus medius and minimus that promote more lateral weight-bearing.
What if your shin pain is diagnosed on a more serious side of the spectrum?
If your shin pain is diagnosed to be towards the more serious side of the spectrum, either a bone stress reaction or bone stress fracture, your physiotherapist will also guide you through the management of this. In same cases, a complete offloading of the area via wearing a moonboot may be required to allow for adequate bone healing. This will usually follow a period of significant rest for loaded activity (e.g. running), however lots of other activity is still permitted. Your physiotherapist will carefully devise a plan that is safe for you continue while you are in a period of rest/offloading and, most importantly, guide you through a gradual return to load-based activities over a period of time long enough to allow all tissues to safely re-accustom to these loads.
Can physio help my shin pain?
If you are suffering from shin splints or pain on the inside of your shin, the physiotherapists at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy can help in diagnosing your condition, outlining a treatment plan to aid you in returning to you desired level of activity and provide injury prevention strategies so that the pain doesn’t return. If you have shin pain and would like some guidance on management, please contact us or book in online.
If you have any further questions feel free to contact us here at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy and we can help guide you to determine the best massage treatment for you.
Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy
Melbourne Sports Physio has a range of qualified and experienced professionals who can help provide ongoing support and treatment. Our friendly team are located in across Melbourne in Essendon, North Melbourne and Blackburn South, and appointments can be made by calling or booking online.