Shin Splints

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints is a phrase used to describe multiple issues causing pain in the front part of the lower leg primarily when exercising.  All the conditions it describes are similar however not identical in treatment.  The conditions can include: stress fracture of the tibia, exercise-induced compartment syndrome, muscle, ligament, or tendon injury and periostitis.  Most commonly this condition is seen in runners.

What are the causes of Shin Splints?

Many times the causes of shin splints can be a biomechanical issue.  This means that the way your body is moving is placing extra stress on the lower leg causing the pain.  Overpronation is one of the most common causes of shin splints.  This is when the foot rolls inward causing the arch to flatten when we are walking or running.  This rolling movement of the foot causes rotation through the shin bone increasing the stresses and tension on the bone and muscles that attach to it.  Tight calf muscles or equinus also may cause these movement patterns creating extra stresses on the shin bone and the muscles that attach to it.  Other biomechanical issues that may cause shin splints include, weak hip muscles.  This is especially seen in female runners.  Stress fractures of the shin bone can occur with repetitive stress on the bone especially if running on hard surfaces such as concrete.  Exercise-induced compartment syndrome occurs when the muscles increase in size during exercise due to the increase in blood flow to them.  Each group of muscles is wrapped in a saran wrap like layer of tissue and if they increase too much in size they can actually cause loss of blood flow to the area causing pain and sometimes numbness.

Do shin splints need to be seen by a doctor?

The shin is very susceptible to injury especially in active individuals.  Shin splints may start out more as a nuisance however, if the cause of your pain is not properly addressed it can become progressive and very painful.  Many times if the biomechanical problems are not addressed the condition will require you to stop participation in your activities in order to improve.

How do you treat shin splints?

Many times shin splint require only conservative treatments.  It is important for a biomechanical exam to be performed by your Podiatrist to evaluate your gait and leg mechanics.  Orthotic therapy, if indicated, allows custom devices to be placed in the shoes to help prevent overpronation and thus prevent the inward rolling of the foot which may be causing the shin splints.  Temporary taping of the foot or ankle in the early stages can improve symptoms.  Icing the area after activity also can improve inflammation.  Prescription anti-inflammatory medications can improve the pain.  Rest and elevation of the leg.  Changing shoe gear to more appropriate shoes for your specific activity and foot type.  Changing activity and cross training can prevent the pounding stresses on the shin.

The doctors at Advanced Foot and Ankle Center are well trained and experienced in treating shin splints and evaluating the possible biomechanical problems that can cause shin splints.  Please call today for an appointment.


Eric M. Silvers, DPM
Dustin M. Lloyd, DPM

Christopher S. WItt, DPM