Shin Splints rehab

Shin splints is a fairly common running injury. Shin splints typically develop after exercise and manifest as pain along the inside of your shin bone (tibia).  The medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It is an inflammation of the muscles, tendon and/or bone tissue around the tibia.

Symptoms of shin splints

Pain along the inside of your shin bone.

Occasionally you can see a subtle swelling in this part of the leg. This is difficult to fully assess as MTSS commonly happens in both shins at the same time.

Initially the pain may only be felt while exercising. As the injury progresses, you may feel pain even at rest. If you don’t address shin splints and modify your activity, they may progress to a stress fracture of the tibia.

What causes shin splints?

Shin splints is an overuse injury. It develops when the muscle and bone tissue in the leg is under strain due to repetitive activity/overload.  This excessive force causes inflammation of the muscle and bone tissue of the shin bone(tibia).

Shin splints usually occur when there has been a sudden change in physical activity. This may include a new form of exercise, increasing the frequency, duration or intensity of exercise.  

It is imperative to get your footwear accurately assessed so that your feet are appropriately supported when taking part in whatever form of exercise you have chosen.

Having flat feet or rigid feet joints may predispose you to developing shin splints.

Running on the road or hard surfaces may also predispose you to developing shin splints as well as rapidly increasing the amount of hill work you do.  Running on slanted surfaces or uneven terrain may also contribute to shin splints.

Implement a programme that involves cross training so that you don’t over-train one area.

It’s important to add some strength training into your regime as this will help prepare your body to deal with high impact sports especially.

A full lower limb biomechanic assessment needs to be carried out by your sports physiotherapist to assess the underlying cause of your shin splints.

How are shin splints diagnosed?

Your sport’s physiotherapist will complete a detailed subjective and objective examination whereby you will be asked in depth about your training regimes and your pain. 

You do not need an x-ray to diagnose shin splints. Your physiotherapist may request further investigations if he/she is trying to rule out other reasons for your pain eg stress fractures, tendinopathy or compartment syndrome. Your physiotherapist can advise and refer you for further investigation should he/she deem it necessary.

Treatment of shin splints

Treatment of shin splints needs to be holistic. It is so important to treat and correct the underlying cause of the injury and not just treat the symptoms. If only the symptoms are treated, this injury will linger and/or re-occur.

You should take a break from the form of exercise that is giving you pain. You could substitute high impact exercises with low impact exercises (eg cycle, swim or use elliptical trainer rather than run while you are recovering from this injury). It is important to find the optimal loading point for each individual.

Compression socks may be beneficial to prevent additional swelling.

Icing the area may assist with pain relief and inflammation.

Your physiotherapist may also use strapping to assist in settling the pain down and getting you back to a training regime.

A thorough foot and footwear assessment needs to take place. A referral to an orthotist may be appropriate.

Once a thorough assessment has taken place, your physiotherapist will advise you on how to manage and prevent this injury from happening again.

When returning to the aggravating activity (the activity that caused the issue initially), it is important that you are pain free before attempting a return. Your return needs to be a gradual introduction, gradually adding variables as your tolerance increases.

For more information or to book an appointment a physiotherapist in Durban, please call  031 563 1314 or email



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