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What are shin splints

What are shin splints?

The medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It refers to pain that runs along your shin bone, usually starting from just below your knee. Anterior shin splints describe the pain felt on the outer part of your leg, while medial shin splints refer to pain on the inside of the leg. Medical experts describe shin splints as “pain on the posteromedial tibial border during exercise”, or to you and I, pain down the shin bone whilst exercising.

Shin splints are a common injury in not only runners but tennis players, dancers, and other athletes. In fact, it’s reported to occur in 4-35% of all military personnel and athletes at some point in their careers.


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There are a number of theories for what causes shin splint pain. Some sports scientists have shown, through MRI scanning, that the injury is caused by an overloading of the muscles that causes them to pull away from the cortex surrounding the bone. This explains why, in some cases, you may feel like the edge of the shin bone feels bumpy.

Other theories include pain resulting from small tears to the muscle itself when it is pulled from the bone. General muscle inflammation may also be to blame, particularly inflammation of the periosteum (the sheath of tissue that wraps around your shin bone).

What causes shin splints?

The most common site for shin splints is the inside (medial) area of the shin. Shin splints on the outside of your leg, through the muscle, are usually due to the overuse of a muscle called the tib ant (tibials anterior). This muscle is involved in lifting your toes off the floor and if there is an imbalance or weakness in your calf muscles, the tib ant overworks and becomes fatigued and painful. 


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In many cases, shin splints are a case of doing too much, too soon. This painful condition usually develops in new runners who haven’t allowed their body to adjust by building up their mileage gradually. However, shin splints can also strike seasoned runners who make a sudden change to their workout, change in footwear or orthotics.

Several studies have suggested that major risk factors for shin splints include excessive pronation of the foot while standing (flat feet), higher body mass index, greater than normal ranges of movement in the hip, and calf girth. It also appears that women have a higher incidence of shin splints but the exact correlation is unclear.

Having shin splints previously will also increase your risk of it returning.  


How do I know if I have shin splints?

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