Shin Splints

Shin Splints

Whether you’re an athlete, have recently started running for fitness, or are just trying a physical activity, the pain on the front and inside of your shins known as shin splints can stop you in your tracks. Shin splints can affect one leg or both, with the pain typically starting during or after exercise and reducing with rest.

If you’re experiencing pain in your shins, we strongly recommend getting it seen, diagnosed and treated as early as possible. This is because there are two other conditions that cause pain at the shins during exercise – stress fractures and compartment syndrome – and one of these can be a medical emergency. We’ve included a short description on both at the bottom of the page.

Why have my shin splints started?

Shin splints may be caused by damage (micro-tears) to the muscles that attach to the shin bone (tibia), damage to the shin bone itself, or damage to the lining of the bone. This typically occurs from overusing and straining the shins and their muscles, which is why shin splints is referred to as “too much, too soon”. The strain may be caused by or associated with:

  • Suddenly increasing your physical activity duration or intensity
  • High-intensity sports with quick changes in direction, including AFL, netball, tennis and soccer
  • Significantly favouring one leg over another during physical activity
  • Having a poor warm-up and cool-down routine
  • Your foot posture and lower limb function
  • Wearing shoes that don’t adequately support your feet and legs
  • Running on hard surfaces
  • Muscle tightness in the lower limbs

What do shin splints feel like?

Shin splint pain can come on quickly during exercise, and settle with rest, though in severe cases it can continue long into the night. The pain can be worse in the morning while the muscles are tighter, and the pain will be felt in the lower shin bone, at the front and inside borders. You may experience swelling, and it may feel tender to touch the bone.

How do you fix shin splints?

As this is an on-again, off-again problem that can be long-standing if not treated effectively, it’s important to get it managed early to get the best outcomes (with the least hassle, as the severity of the injury can worsen!). We’ll start by identifying what factors are causing your shin splints, and will work to address these to help prevent the onset in the first place.

If any pain is currently lingering, we’ll help you manage this too. It’s important to us that you’re equipped with the tools and knowledge to help you make the best decisions to care for your lower limbs and continue to reduce the risk of your shin splints coming back long after your appointment with us.

If it’s not shin splints, it could be…

There are two other conditions that can have similar symptoms to shin splints:

  • Stress fractures – unlike a standard fracture occurring instantly from trauma, stress fractures develop gradually over time. Small hairline cracks build up in the bone and spread as the bone is continually placed under stress and pressure. When stress fractures develop in the tibia shin bone, the pain may mimic the symptoms of shin splints.
  • Compartment syndrome – there are two types of compartment syndrome, chronic and acute, and the acute presentation is considered to be a medical emergency. Compartment syndrome occurs when the pressure inside a muscle compartment increases to that point that the blood and/or nerve supply is diminished, causing painful symptoms in the legs. It requires immediate medical attention.
Getting pain when you exercise?

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