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All you want to know about Shin Splints from a Physio

By peagreen

What are ‘Shin Splints’?

Shin Splints is an ‘Umbrella Term’, there are multiple different possible diagnosis under the label of shin splints from Muscle DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), to Tendonitis, Teno-synovitis, periostitis, Stress fracture or compartment syndrome. By seeking advice from a physiotherapist they can determine what the exact diagnosis is, as it will change what you do and how you treat it.

What are the symptoms?

Muscle DOMS: pain for the first 1-5 days after running in the muscle if you have run for the first time or you’ve changed type of training, distance, speed, incline, style or terrain.


Tendonitis: Pain usually in the lower third of the shin, lasts from 1-12 weeks plus if left untreated, pain during training and sometimes afterwards with walking, tender to touch, tender to stretch the muscle and contract. Stiff and painful in the mornings and after rest periods, like sitting. Tenosynovitis: tends to sit lower ¼ of the shin and ankle, some swelling, similar symptoms to tendonitis but also the synovium (sheath that binds a group of tendons over a joint area) is involved.

Periostitis: inflammation of the bone sheath, usually secondary to chronic tendonitis, tenderness and thickening or small areas of swelling along the shin bone. Pain during training immediately, some pain at rest and at night and with high impact, pain during exercise.

Stress Fracture: Pain at night, pain at rest, pain with any vibration or impact through the lower leg and significant pain with training. Tender along the shin bone or fibular.

Compartment Syndrome: Muscle sheath too tight for expanding muscle mass, especially when training and the muscle has increased blood flow, pain worsens during a training session to the point where you have to stop, pain can take hours or days to settle after a training session. In severe cases changes in foot temperature, sensation and pulse can be affected during training.


What are the causes?


Image delayed onset muscle soreness from micro-trauma to the muscle fibres, to be expected if trying something new or different or from overtraining.


Tendonitis/tenosynovitis: Overtraining, overuse, too much too soon or repetitive strain injury, not stretching enough, tight muscles or muscle imbalances can contribute,


Periostitis/ Stress Fracture:  Too much high impact and stress through the muscle/tendon and bone.


Compartment syndrome: Large muscle mass in the calf or shin, a ‘mesomorph’ body type, overtraining. Tends to occur bilaterally  (in both legs).


What to do to make it better?

Rest, massage, stretch, myofascial release or foam roller, acupuncture, combined US and interferential, Kinesio-taping, ice, compression tights.

Seek a Physical Therapy treatment like Physiotherapy. Get a foot biomechanical assessment from a qualified podiatrist or pedorthist, you may need to change your trainers or get some orthotic insoles from off the shelf or made to measure to change how your foot strikes the ground when running, this can prevent tendons, muscles, joints and bones from being overstressed unduly. 


What’s the healing time?

Depends on diagnosis, Muscle DOMS last 1-5 days, tendinitis/tenosynovitis 3-12 weeks, periostitis/stress fracture 6-12 weeks, compartment syndrome 1 week-6 months.


If you are not sure what type of ‘shin splints’ diagnosis you have, then why not book a FREE 15 minute mini assessment at Pea Green Physio, we will assess and diagnose, give advice on what to do to make it better.

no more ouch... give the team a call: 01869 241411 or
pop us an email: info@peagreenphysio.co.uk and we’ll get back to you