Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common condition seen in runners and those who play sports involving running and rapid acceleration. The exact cause is not known but is thought to be due to repeated stress on the shinbone and it’s attaching connective tissue. It is more common in females and in those with a previous leg injury and in those often running on hard or uneven surfaces.

The typical symptom is pain in the shin with running.  There may be associated swelling. At first the pain is when one starts running and eases after warming up. As the condition advances pain persists for longer and can even continue after ceasing exercise.

Diagnosis is based mainly on the history. There is no diagnostic test. X-rays (or rarely, an MRI scan) may be done to rule out other causes such as a stress fracture.

There is no specific treatment. Ice packs and simple painkillers provide symptom relief in the short term. Rest and avoiding activity, which worsens the pain is key. However you don’t need to stop all exercise. Swimming or walking in water are two options to maintain fitness.

Attention to training techniques can be helpful. Use of orthotics or insoles may also help as can change of shoes. For the more serious athlete, having a biomechanical assessment of their running style may lead to technique changes, which are beneficial.