Shin splints are an extremely common ailment in runners. Other common names are soleus syndrome and tibial periostitis, but the proper medical terminology is medial tibial stress syndrome. As this name suggests, this condition involves overload (stress) of the medial (inner border) part of the tibia (shin bone).
This overuse condition is usually associated with abrupt changes in training routines. The bone experiences increased stresses and begins to remodel to adapt to this environment but often needs more time to adapt than the runner allows.
Runners with suspected shin splints should seek an evaluation by a sports medicine professional to rule out other diagnoses such as a stress fracture, posterior tibial tendon disease, and exercise-induced exertional compartment syndrome.
The diagnosis is typically made by physical examination, with tenderness along the inside area of the leg. Plain X-rays usually do not show any changes. Advanced imaging, such as bone scan and MRI can sometimes be performed and help confirm the diagnosis, but is usually not necessary.
The mainstay of treatment is rest (or a change in training, such as cross training) to allow the tibial bone to heal. Other treatments that may help include:
However, there is no clear evidence that any of these have significant benefit besides rest. To help avoid shin splints, runners should be vigilant in allowing adequate time to increase training demands, as well as run in a properly-fitted, well-cushioned running shoe. So, keep on running and don’t let your shins slow you down..
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