The Most Common Cause for Shin Splints, Explanations and Treatment Advice

shin splints

Shin splints are a general term used to describe pain on the front of the shin which is brought on by exercise. There are a number of causes for shin pain, but here we are going to consider one of most common reasons for shin splints which is the muscle/ tendon on the front of the shin called the tibialis anterior.

Tibialis anterior shin splints are common in endurance athletes such as runners or long distance walkers.

Tibialis anterior joins onto the shin bone (tibia) runs down the inside front of the shin across the ankle and attaches onto the inside of the foot. Tibialis anterior has two roles to play when walking or running. Firstly when the heel hits the floor on each stride it works to pay out and lower the foot to the ground. If tibialis anterior is not working gravity lowers the foot down, but here will be a distinct slapping on every footfall as there is no control to the movement. Next when the foot pushes off the ground the muscle bends the ankle up to allow the foot to clear the ground.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Increasing training too quickly. Training should be gradually ramped up. Anterior shin splints are common in people who return to running after a period away from training or in those who have recently taken up running and have increased their mileage too quickly.
Tight calf muscles. A common cause of shin pain, tight calf muscles alter the range of movement that the ankle can move through on every stride and thus add extra stress to the anterior tibial muscle.

Overpronation. Also associated with tight calf muscles a foot which rolls over too far on every step is overstretching the anterior tibials.

Inappropriate footwear, for instance running in trainers which do not provide the appropriate motion control for your foot type.

Stop Shin Splints- Treatment

Exercises including specific stretches and eccentric strengthening.

Ice, relieves the immediate pain and inflammation and provides pain relief.

Footwear adaption/ orthotics. Visit a specialist sports footwear shop such as Mountainfeet who offer individual assessment and fitting.

Phased return to exercise

Other Causes of Medial Shin Pain

Although the most common cause of medial shin pain is associated with the tibialis anterior and can be treated as described, it is important to rule out other causes of shin pain including:

Stress fracture.
Compartment syndrome: A potentially very serious condition where swelling of the muscles puts pressure on the surrounding structures.
Referred pain: Pain which although felt in the shin is caused by a nerve being compressed in the lower back.
Vascular pain: pain due to impaired circulation.
Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand your injury. There are several possible causes for shin pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your doctor.