Shin Splints in Runners

What exactly are shin splints? What do I do if I get them?

“Shin splints" is a descriptive term for lower leg pain along the shin bone.

Pain along the inner edge of the shin bone is referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS for short). The term shin splints is a typical way for runners to refer to MTSS.images

What do shin splints feel like?

MTSS includes vague pain along the inner shin bone which is felt during activity. There is also tenderness when touching the shin bone in that area.

What is happening to the bone with MTSS?

The outer layer of the tibia bone is called periosteum. The periosteum is a membrane that contains nerves and blood vessels. Muscles of the lower leg attach to this periosteum. The pain from MTSS results from inflammation of the periosteum as muscles are repeatedly pulled at their attachments to the tibia bone during running.

Why would a runner develop MTSS?

MTSS is a very common injury and is typically the result of overuse. In runners, MTSS is more common when the running season begins, when there is a sudden increase in mileage or changes in terrain (flat ground vs hills for example). Other factors may play into a runner developing MTSS including pelvic instability, lower leg biomechanics, shoes and running surface.

How are shin splints treated?

Early treatment is key in the recovery from MTSS. The longer MTSS goes untreated the longer recovery can take. The first step in recovery is ensuring the runner has a stable pelvis. Without a stable pelvis the lower extremities are at a biomechanical disadvantage as running continues. This increases the pulling of the muscles on the periosteum, inflammation increases and therefore "shin splint" symptoms worsen as running continues. Signs that MTSS is worsening include pain present after activity and pain at rest.

A proper diagnosis is essential as MTSS can present similarly to a Tibial Stress Fracture, which is a more serious condition and would require a runner to stop running immediately. 

Functional Assessment of the Runner

A Functional Assessment is an essential way to determine pelvic stability in a runner. Once resolved the runner has the best chance at recovery. Recovery may include time off running, changing terrain, changing shoes, a Functional Gait Analysis and specific treatment including soft tissue work, chiropractic care, taping and specific homecare exercises.

Functional Assessments can be booked at Cadence Chiropractic by calling 403.521.2278 or visit our website for more information.

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