Shin Splints: Diagnosing, Treating and Preventing Shin Splints

shin splints stress fracture or muscle strain
Bone fracture or muscle strain?

What are shin splints?

The term “shin splints” covers a wide variety of lower leg injuries. They range from straining the muscles along the shin to fracturing the underlying bone. While all display the same general symptoms of pain around the shin, the specific location of the pain is an important distinction in how to properly treat the injury. 

Where are the shin splints?

anterior tibial stress syndrome vs posterior tibial stress syndrome

Shin splints on the inside lower half of the shin

Also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) 


Running is high-impact, and micro fractures along the tibia (shin bone) can occur. If not properly addressed, this will progress to a more serious stress fracture, known as Medial Tibial Stress Fracture (MTSF).


Shin splints on the outside upper half of the shin

Also known as Anterior Tibial Stress Syndrome (ATSS)


This condition results from overworking the muscle on your shin that is responsible for raising your foot, the anterior tibialis. The raising of your foot towards your knee, also known as dorsiflexion, allows you to avoid tripping over your toes and navigate uneven terrain.

What causes shin splints?

Shin splints on the inside lower half of the shin

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) 


The micro fractures or cracking in the tibia bone occur as the tibia bends under too much load. There are a variety of reasons for this including but not limited to:

- low density bone mass

- excessive pronation

- significant increase in running volume


Shin splints on outside upper half of the shin

Anterior Tibial Stress Syndrome (ATSS)


Overworking the anterior tibialis muscle is the results of incorrect running form.  Specifically from overstriding, where the foot lands too far in front of the body, and excessive or exaggerated heel striking. 


overstriding heel striking running mechanics


This combination puts tremendous strain on the AT muscle. As the heel hits the ground first, forward momentum drives the rest of foot to the ground. This pulls against the AT muscle which is working to keep the toes lifted. Over the course of the run, the AT muscle gets overworked. 


What do shin splints feel like?

Shin splints on the inside lower half of the shin

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) 


- A dull aching pain along the inside lower half of the shin bone and may be painful to the touch 

- Pain may be present during workout

- Pain may be felt while standing and bearing weight 


Shin splints on outside upper half of the shin

Anterior Tibial Stress Syndrome (ATSS)


- Pain when lifting or dorsiflexing your toes off the ground

- Pain may be present at beginning of run but fade over the course of the run


Additional symptom questions:

Do shin splints cause swelling? 

They can but it is not a necessary symptom for diagnosis.


Do shin splints cause bruising? 

They do not.


Can shin splints cause ankle pain? 

They do not however if you do not properly address the underlying cause of shin splints, you can develop other injuries as a result of overcompensation. 


What if the pain gets worse?

If you are experiencing pain 24/7 or it intensifies during activity, stop activity and seek immediate medical attention.


How do you treat shin splints?

Treating shin splints on the inside lower half of the shin

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) 


Take a two week break from running and any other high impact activities. Without giving your tibia bone the proper time to heal, this can progress to a fracture, in which case you will be unable to do most forms of activity for a month or more. It is highly recommended that you see a physical therapist or available medical professional if experiencing MTSS symptoms.


Treating shin splints on the outside upper half of the shin

Anterior Tibial Stress Syndrome (ATSS)


Improve and maintain a healthy running form.

 

midfoot strike foot position at ground contact


As mentioned above, overstriding and excessive heel striking cause these shin splints. Our PR1 insoles are the only product on the market that is designed to help you improve your running form and effectively eliminate shin splints.


The PR1 provides you with real-time auditory feedback so you can feel and hear when you are overstriding and heel striking during your runs and workouts. By using the PR1 insole, you’ll be able to teach yourself to land with a more controlled, level footstrike (midfoot) and bring your foot closer to your body at ground contact to stop overstriding.

 

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