Shin splints is a common “waste basket” term many people use for any lower leg pain.  However, it can often be broken down into 3 different issues, general muscle soreness, true shin splints, (other wise known as medial tibial stress syndrome), and stress fractures.

True shin splints can be a very uncomfortable experience and any one who has suffered from this syndrome knows how painful it can get.  There are generally two reasons people will suffer from shin splints.  One is because of an overload in the muscles and tendons.  Impact forces produced when running or doing weight bearing activities are normally absorbed by the muscles and tendons of the foot and leg.  However, the repeated ground contact and change of direction that happens in many activities such as soccer, ultimate frisbee, running, power walking, baseball and many other activities, can cause the muscle and tendons to fatigue and be overloaded, which will cause them to lose their ability to absorb the shock.

The second reason people suffer with shin splints is because of biomechanical inefficiencies, which is just a fancy term for your body isn’t working as well as it could.  This is primarily due to, flat feet and over-pronation.  Over-pronation is when a person’s foot flattens out and rolls inward.  This turns the tibia (shin bone) inwards and causes the muscles of the lower leg to over stretch.

Prevention is really the key to helping with shin splints.  Seek advice on the right kind of footwear for you.  Get evaluated by having a gait analysis done by a trained professional.  Secondly, a thorough and correct warm-up should be done before starting your desired activity.  Finally, stretching and strengthening the muscles of the foot and lower leg is often missed, but is greatly needed aspect of training for any weight bearing activity.

If you are currently suffering from shin splints, don’t forget to ice.  Take a small ice cube and massage your shin with it regularly in the first 48-72 hours.  After that seek out a registered massage therapist, athletic therapist or physiotherapist and try heat and massage combinations to loosen the area. Lastly, work on stretching and strengthening the muscles.  If stress fractures are a possibility please see your family physician for further testing.

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