Shin splints, is one of the most common causes of pain in the lower limb for athletes. It is defined as exercise-induced pain along the postero-medial tibial border (inside border of the shin bone) or the anterior (front) surface of the shin.
Symptoms of shin splints develop in the areas identified in the image above following a period of excessive or repeated loading such as running or walking. In more severe cases, pain levels may cause ascending and descending stairs to be troublesome. The onset of pain is usually associated with a relatively sudden increase in exercise or activity and may be accompanied by swelling and tenderness to touch in the affected region.
There are multiple theories behind what exactly the underlying cause of this condition is, however more recently it is believed to be a bony overload injury. Nontheless, due to lack of strong evidence for any of the theories on its pathology, shin splints is considered a clinical pain syndrome.
History and physical examination are the cornerstones of the diagnostic process in clinical pain syndromes. Research studies have shown that imaging modalities such as X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scans and bone scans are unable to diﬀerentiate between athletes with and without clinically diagnosed shin splints.
Our Physiotherapists are specialists in patient history and physical examinations, allowing for a quick diagnosis of your symptoms. This in turn, allows the most effective treatment and management plan to be put in place so optimal outcomes are achieved.
Upon diagnosis of shin splints, your Physiotherapist will discuss a management strategy comprising of advice and education. They will explain how you can alleviate your symptoms with relative rest and how you can remain active in ways that do not cause your symptoms to become worse. Alongside this, you will also be provided information on how you can gradually return to any activities that may have been limited or avoided due to your symptoms. Your treatment and management will be based on your individual goals.
Your Physiotherapist will prescribe a graded loading programme to allow you to safely return back to your activity. Regular re-assessment will ensure that you are making progress towards achieving your goals and that your current exercise plan is helping to achieve optimal recovery.
Please find the patient resources section of our website where we have created a series of bespoke exercise programmes specific to this condition. We advise consulting with your Physiotherapist prior to trying any of these exercises.
Patient.info page on shin splints – click here.