Shin splints - sometimes referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) - is the name given to the symptom of pain at the shin bone, located at the front of the lower leg. The pain typically radiates between the knee and the ankle.
The condition can cause people to stop certain activities which may be contributing to the pain. Shin splints is classed as a cumulative stress disorder. Repeated activities which have a high impact on the joints and muscles of the lower legs prevent the body from being able to repair itself.
The main cause of shin splint is repeated, excessive pressure on the shin bone (tibia), and its surrounding tissues and muscles. This force leads to the muscles swelling and inflammation of the lining of the bone. Another possible cause is a stress fracture to the tibia.
Shin splints generally affect people that are involved in moderate or heavy physical activities. These activities could be work-related, or due to competing in sports such as tennis, basketball and football. Sports which require suddenly stopping and starting or jumping movements are understood to present a higher risk of shin splints. Other risk factors include wearing inadequate footwear or having lack of physical flexibility.
Among the most common symptoms of shin splints are; an ache at the front of the lower leg; pain to the sides of the shin bone; pain which gets gradually worse during exercise; pain, soreness or tenderness along the inner section of the lower leg; foot weakness or numbness; and mild swelling in the lower leg.
Shin splits is usually diagnosed via a physical examination, consultation, or imaging tests such as x-ray.
There are several remedies which can be effective in the treatment of shin splints, including; rest (usually around two weeks) from physical activities which are known to make the condition worse; using ice treatment to reduce swelling; keeping legs elevated; over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium; foam rollers for massage; and wearing compression bandages. Injections of PRP or steroid can often improve recovery times and resolve pain quicker.
If MTSS is associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, surgery can be an option. A fasciotomy is a procedure that involves opening the fascia tissue that surrounds the calf muscles, thereby allowing them to have more room to expand which can relieve pain.