Shin Pain

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The term ‘shin splints’ is a commonly-used term to describe a host of potential problems of lower limb discomfort commonly bought on by exercise. Medial tibial stress syndome (MTSS) is the medical term for a pain that arises on the medial (inner) border of the tibia (shin bone) when the bone and soft tissue are overloaded. This may be due to the level of exercise but may be due to excessive loads bought on by abnormal biomechanics (the way we walk and run).

By analysing and treating these abnormalities, MTSS can often resolve but if left unchecked may reflect the start of a more significant stress injury or stress fracture of the tibia. This is really important to rule out especially in endurance runners or those who might have poor bone health. (Some runners can become underweight due to poor dietary habits resulting in a form of osteoporosis – in women this can be associated with reduced or absent periods – the so called ‘female athlete triad’).

Sometimes shin or calf pain can be due to a myriad of other causes from tendon inflammation, muscle injury or nerve entrapment. One particular problem that can affect athletes is where a muscle becomes too tight within its muscle sheath. As the athlete runs, the pressure from the increased blood feeding the muscle becomes too great eventually overcoming the ability of the body to supply the muscle and leading to ‘exertional’ lower limb pain or ‘compartment syndrome’

Once again, abnormal biomechanics may play a role and it is important to establish this diagnosis and cause to enable the most appropriate treatment.

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