‘Shin splints’ is often used as a generic label for any sort of shin or calf pain in the leg. It is used to describe the condition of a stress reaction that can occur between the muscle and the bone in the lower leg. It appears to most commonly affect active people who are doing a lot of training that involves running, or running-based sports, such as soccer, football or basketball, and other ‘high load’ activities, such as dance. It tends to be described as a diffuse type aching pain that radiates down the inside of the shin bone.
Shin splints are usually an inflammatory condition that affects the inside of the tibia, or shin bone. Excessive loading, or overtraining leads to micro-tears in the attachment of the Posterior Tibialis muscle on the bone, which fail to resolve throughout the training cycle. This can often be as the result of fatigue in the muscle as the activity continues. The pain usually decreases with warm up, but recurs after training or the next day. It can progress to pain at rest as well.
What can cause it?
Some of the most common causes of shin splints are often the result of training errors. There may be sudden increases in training load, such as frequency or duration of training, or the intensity of training. Usually people trying to do too much too fast. But they can also be attributed to changes in training conditions, e.g. from grass to bitumen, or even a change of footwear. Tightness in the calf muscles and abnormal biomechanics, or functioning of the feet, have been found to contribute to shin splints.
What can be done?
A complete and thorough history of the athlete, with a review of training load and conditions, is very important. A previous lower limb injury, and running more than 30km per week, has been shown to predispose athletes to tibial stress reactions.
Initial treatment often involves the reduction of the inflammation of the bone-muscle junction. Rest, ice, massage, and anti-inflammatory medications can often help with this. Podiatric assessment of the feet, legs and footwear are also important components of the management of this condition. A proper stretching and modified training program, with changes to frequency, duration and intensity, can then be formulated for the individual. Any significant biomechanical abnormalities may require custom designed orthotics and improved footwear for correction.
If you are concerned about ongoing shin or calf pain in either yourself or your child, contact the team at Moreton All Body Care for a review.