Medial tibial stress syndrome is the medical term for shin splints, a condition that causes pain along the front or on the inner or outer sides of your legs. Shin splints are a common overuse injury in runners, dancers, and recruits in the military, but they affect many more as well.
Physical therapy plays a crucial role in relieving shin splint discomfort, and our team at Empire Physical Therapy and Athletic Rehabilitation has extensive experience treating the uncomfortable symptoms of shin splints.
Paul LaRosa, MS, PT, and Billy Reilly, MS, PT, approach your care with warmth and the goal of improving your mobility and comfort so you can live life to the fullest again.
Symptoms of shin splints and contributing factors
The hallmark symptoms of shin splints include:
- Pain (either sharp or dull) and tenderness in your inner, outer, or front lower leg
- Lower leg inflammation
- Lumps along your tibial bones
- Red patches on the skin where pain is concentrated in severe cases
We noted that certain sports, particularly running, are associated with shin splints, but they’re also common for people who have been inactive for a long time then suddenly jump into a fitness program.
Shin splints are the result of repetitive stress to the shinbone and connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bone.
You’re at higher risk for shin splints if you suddenly change the intensity, length, or frequency of your workouts, you tend to run on hard or uneven surfaces, or you have either high arches or flat feet.
Tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles make you prone to shin splints, as does having weak ankles or weakness in your core.
If you overpronate, which is when your feet tend to move toward your center when you walk or run, you’re also at higher risk for developing shin splints.
Overpronation causes a greater portion of your arch to hit the ground for a longer amount of time when you’re moving, and the bulk of your weight stresses the middle portions of your feet rather than the outer edges.
Finally, wearing the wrong shoes while exercising can lead to shin splint pain as well.
How do you treat shin splints?
Fortunately, we offer a range of effective treatments to relieve shin splint pain and discomfort. Our recommended treatment plans typically include:
- Taking a break from high impact activities for a time and cycling or swimming instead
- Applying ice
- Wearing orthotics while you exercise
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
- Taping the arch or affected muscles
- Stretching the muscles around your shin and calf and foot muscles
- Hands-on massage
- A functional movement screen to determine movement patterns that lead to injury
We give you exercises you can do at home, too. For shin splints, we may suggest exercises that help with hip rotation, hip abduction (when you lift your leg away from your other leg), and hip extension (when you lift your leg behind you).
We might also recommend exercises that strengthen your arch and shin muscles and help with overpronation.
How to prevent shin splints
In addition to treatment for shin splints, we advise you on what you can do to ensure that shin splints don’t recur.
Wear properly fitting shoes designed for the sport you’re participating in, and take an even-keel approach to your workouts. It’s fine to set goals, but don’t abruptly or drastically change your workouts.
Stretch before and after you exercise, and if you run, aim to do your mileage on pliable surfaces so as not to stress your lower legs.
It’s also a good idea to cross-train and include lower impact activities in your workout schedule, like walking and bicycling, as well as strength training so your core, hips, legs, and ankles can be ready for more intense activity.
Call our conveniently located office in the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, to set up an appointment if shin splint discomfort has slowed you down, or reach out to us through our website.