What Are Shin Splints

By on August 28, 2013
what are shin splints

Looking to understand what are shin splints? The injury is medically known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). Shin splints commonly occur when an athlete overloads the muscles and tendons around the shin bone, creating excess stress to the lower leg. The term shin splints refers to pain along or just behind the shin bone (tibia). Tibia is a large bone in the front of your lower leg.

Shin splints are a common problem for athletes, runners, basketball and tennis players, and even dancers. It is often attributed to overuse of muscles around the tibia or an improper running technique and biomechanics. It is a stubborn and painful injury that can harmfully affect the quality of training. It is possible to overcome shin splints with a combination of treatments and a proper amount of rest.

Shin splints may also refer to a more generalized group of overuse injuries of the lower leg below the knees, but it is typically separated into two different groups which are anterior shin splints (front of the leg) and posterior shin splints (inside of the leg).


Who gets shin splints?


Shin splints can occur to athletes of all skill levels, but are more common among less experienced athletes. Shin splints occurring more among less experienced athletes may relate to their bodies not being adapted to the stress and impacts occurring from athletics activities. Additional reasons for lower leg injuries may be related to improper biomechanics in running.

Even professional athletes are prone to getting shin splints. Since it is an overuse injury – training too hard or increasing the intensity of training too fast may give shin splints to athletes of any skill level. It’s all about how much force and trauma your body can take before it gets too much. High level athletes often have the tendency to overtrain and not recognize when they are actually doing too much. Pain is generally a warning signal your body is giving that something is not right.  As such it shouldn’t be ignored.


Why do its definitions differ?


As mentioned above shin splints often refer to a more generalized group of overuse injuries of the lower leg. Therefore the definitions of what are shin splints differ, and its causes may also vary according to the source. It is most often referred as the Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome which is the degeneration or irritation of the shin bone and its connecting muscles and tendons.

However shin splints may also refer to a compartment syndrome, which can be an extremely dangerous when its acute. Compartment syndrome may cause permanent damage to the muscles or even cause an infection that is lethal. It may be a far more unlikely as an injury, but it always important to make sure your doctor is aware of all the possibilities in shin pain and have the problem diagnosed by a health care professional.

In the past the cause shin splints were thought to be soft tissue damage of the tendons and muscles connecting to the shin bone. However it has been speculated through anatomic studies that a more likely cause may be trauma to the actual shin bone. Whatever the exact causes are – they all refer to too trauma from impact activites such as running.


Anatomy of the lower leg


what are shin splints and its anatomy
The two main muscles relating to shin splints are tibialis anterior muscle (located on the front of the shin bone), and posterior tibialis muscle (located inside and behind the shin bone).

The tibilalis anteriror works as a dorsiflexor of the ankle, pulling the toes closer to the knee. The posteriror tibilias works as a stabilizer of the ankle and pushes the ankle away from the knee. For the proper treatment of shin splints it is important to differentiate which from of shin splints you suffer from.

If you experience pain lifting your toes towards the knee, you are likely to suffer from anterior shin splints, and if you experience pain inside the leg you are likely suffer from the more common posterior shin splints. Shin splints is a painful stress reaction to the tibial bone and because of that it may create inflammation to the membrane covering the bone.


How to prevent shin splints?


Since shin splints are generally an overuse injury – it is recommended to take rest from any athletic activities and let your body heal itself. If the shin pain stems from damage to the actual bone, the remodeling process may take months. If you are required to stand for long hours or walk a lot at your work, using proper insoles or shoes might relieve your symptoms. It is important not to strain your muscles especially during the first signs shin splints as if the injury gets prolonged, it may be much more difficult to treat it.

In many cases simply resting is not a full solution to becoming injury free. There are multiple causes for shin splints that might be due to muscle imbalances or biomechanical dysfunctions. It is important to address these issues so that the injury doesn’t return once athletic activities are started. There are a large variety of methods for healing shin splints. Now that you have learned what are shin splints, for the best information on understanding how to get rid of the injury – we recommend our shin splints treatment guide.


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