Shin Splints are a common overuse injury typically reserved for runners or new runners who take their first run, or runs, a little too far. More precisely, shin splints are a condition referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) which is what we’ll refer to for the remainder of this post. A telltale sign of MTSS is an achy, sore pain along the front of the shin that is tender to the touch near the softer area. This pain will typically present itself hours or a few days following running activity and may persist up to a week.
When persistent or left untreated, MTSS may become worrisome and warrant a visit to your sports medicine physician or physical therapist. This condition requires no imaging or special tests to diagnose. Following your evaluation, your provider will be able to make recommendations for treatment based your activity level and severity of the injury.
Fortunately, MTSS can be treated yourself if you notice the symptoms early enough. This condition is often self-diagnosable by remembering the area of pain most commonly experienced following running. It is also easily self-treated by a combination of rest, ice, and your preferred over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication following your successful diagnosis.
Prevention of MTSS is also possible by performing a few simple exercises and remembering key training points. The most basic rule in running is to progress your mileage at a slow, comfortable pace. Increasing mileage or duration too quickly can result in MTSS or more serious conditions. Shoe wear is heavily dependent on the individual, but for more flat footed runners a wider sole is important while those this high arches may require a more narrow, yet supportive sole. Nutrition and rest are also necessary to allow muscles and other soft tissues to recover from the repetitive trauma of running. Lastly, cross training with light weight lifting or band exercises will prevent injury.
If you experience pain similar to MTSS that does not seem to dissipate after a week of rest, schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician to assess your leg. It may be necessary to rule out more serious conditions such as a stress fracture or chronic compartment syndrome.
Written by Zac Snow, PT, DPT