Shin Splints

Health & Wellbeing with Rosie Jones – Osteopath

Rosie picRosie is an Osteopath with Swansea Body Kinetics at The Natural Health Service in Page Street, Swansea. This month Rosie explains the causes and treatments for shin splints

Shin Splints

What are they?

The medical term for shin splints is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). MTSS is thought to be responsible for up to 35% of all exercise related leg pain1. MTSS is characterised by pain along the inner side of the shin bone (tibia), this pain can take place before, during or after activity but is particularly associated with running and exercise which involves lots of sudden changes of direction, for example, rugby or basketball2.  Often the pain begins as a dull ache, if this is ignored the pain becomes worse until it is extremely sore. So rule number 1, don’t ignore it! Although shin pain can be caused by lots of different problems, it could even be a stress fracture so it is worth laying off the exercise and getting any shin pain checked out.


What causes them?

It is thought that shin splints are caused by overuse of the calf muscles, this causes inflammation in the muscles that attach to the shin bone (tibia) and the surface of the tibia itself3. This is because a constant or sudden demand on the calf muscles can over-whelm the tissues to a point that inflammation takes place in response. Shin splints have been associated with several things including: certain shoes, hard running surfaces, flat feet, increased pronation (sort of flat feet but a bit more complicated!), being over-weight, certain sports that require sudden change of direction, and long distance running. All of these things increase demand on the calf muscles and may cause them to become overused!

How are shin splints relieved?

If you have acute shin splints it is best to rest your lower leg muscles and apply ice to the painful areas initially. Anti inflammatory medication may also be prescribed by your doctor and an osteopath could also strap up your calf to reduce loading, with kinesiology tape. This is to reduce the inflammation to allow treatment to take place without causing too much pain! Once you have successfully reduced the pain to a bearable level, osteopathy may well help you. By applying soft tissue, stretching and strapping to reduce inflammation and tightness of the calf muscles, the pressure will be taken off the shin bone and the tissues will heal. This of course should mean pain free shins! However, before returning to the activities that started the pain it is important to address issues such as footwear and lower body mechanics in order to prevent the problem recurring. I work with a wealth of movement professionals in order to rehabilitate problems such as shin splints, so if you or someone you know is struggling, give me a call!

  1. Griebert, MC., Needle, AR., McConnell, J & Kaminski, TW. (2016) Lower-leg Kinesio tape reduces rate of loading in participants with medial tibial stress syndrome. Physical Therapy in Sport 18: 62-67
  3. Fogharty, S. (2015) Massage treatment and medial tibial stress syndrome; A commentary to provoke thought about the way massage therapy is used in the treatment of MTSS. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 19: 447-452
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