Causes and Treatment for Shin Splints

Causes and Treatment for Shin Splints

Sharp shooting pains in the inner side of your shin could be a cause of worry. Indulging in recreational sports or running an extra mile on your very first cardio day at the gym can do more damage than good. The pain that you might experience along the inner edge of your shinbone could be shin splint. The majority of the time when you are feeling shin splints it is the strain of the Tibialis Anterior which is the muscle that lines the inner side of your shin bone. Physical therapy can help you manage and treat this pain in a number of ways.

What is a shin splint?
Shin splint is the instant throbbing pain felt in the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). The injury is commonly observed in runners as repetitive stress on the shin bone causes it. Repetitive trauma to the muscles surrounding the shin bone through sports that involve running or even sprinting during your regular chores may cause it. Pain caused by shin splints is located in the mid region of your leg next to the shinbone. Shin splints though not a serious injury in the beginning, can lead to a compartment syndrome which can cause permanent deformity and disability.

How is it caused?
The exact cause of shin splints is yet to be discovered, but there are a few contributing factors. A major cause of the injury the excessive stress exerted on the shinbone and the supporting muscles, by activities such as running and dancing. Biomechanical irregularities such as improper foot movements during an aerobic dance or consistent endurance running may also lead to shin splints, which in more severe and untreated cases may lead to stress fractures. Excessive pronation (outward movement) of the feet, running on hard surface or changing surface, tight calf muscles and low flexibility are all causes of shin splints.


  • Rest

The first thing to do when diagnosed with shin splints is to give up exercise and take rest. Though shin splints are a minor injury, continuing with your exercise may result into aggravation and severe consequences.

  •  Medication

For immediate pain control, your physician will prescribe your non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Take medication as per recommended dosage only.

  • Physical therapy

Shin splints have been effectively managed with the help physical therapy. Exercises which concentrate on stretching the shin muscles such as calf stretches relieve tightness. Though running is not recommended in the early days of the injury, performing a heel to heel walk can strengthen your shin muscles.

  •  Ice Packs

Ice should be applied to the affected shinbone as soon as discomfort is felt to avoid swelling and ease pain. Always use an ice pack.

  • Massage

Deep tissue massages might be recommended to free accumulated fluids and quicken the healing of scar tissue

  •  Assistive equipment

In cases of poor foot biomechanics such as flat foot, assistive equipment like a foot orthotic (to be inserted in the shoe) could be recommended.

Prevention techniques

  •   Proper warm up is highly recommended before going on long runs. If you have just started your cardio program make sure you go for shorter runs in the beginning to avoid injury.
  • Opt for soft surfaces such as grass or dirt as compared to hard surfaces concrete to avoid over stressing your shinbone.
  • Using footwear that properly supports your foot, is comfortable and cushioned will go a long way to helping avoid shin splints. Make sure you change your footwear every 500 miles of wear or so.

With the right precautions shin splints can be easily avoided. If your shinbone pain is chronic, it immediate requires medical attention. Visit your physiotherapist right away!