It’s almost like a rite of passage: someone starts running and soon encounters a bout of shin splints. These can occur on the inside or outside of the shin, or both. But why do they happen? Let’s dive into the background of shin splints, explore some anatomy, and discover effective solutions for shin splints treatment and prevention.

Who is Susceptible to Shin Splints?

While shin splints can sometimes diminish with rest and TLC, they can also morph into more serious problems. Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), shin splints can range from mild inflammation to a stress fracture. Those who work in jobs requiring lots of walking or uncomfortable footwear, such as restaurant staff or military personnel, as well as athletes in high-impact sports like basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics, are particularly susceptible to MTSS.

At the Sports Recovery Annex, we see a wide range of patients, from casual joggers to ultra-runners (31-100 miles or more). Despite their varying experience levels, mileage, body types, and training techniques, one thing remains true: without proper warm-up, strengthening, and recovery processes, the body will eventually signal that something needs attention. Ignoring these signals can lead to more serious issues. That’s why focusing on shin splints treatment and prevention is crucial.

Anatomy Review

Your “shin” is your tibia. Several muscles attach to the tibia via tendons. When a muscle is tight, it creates inflammation at the attachment site on the tibia, as it pulls away during movement and exercise. The more intense the movement, the more stress there is on the muscles and tendons. Insufficient strength and improper mechanics can lead to inflammation, underscoring the need for effective shin splints treatment and prevention strategies.

Anatomy diagram showing the tibia and muscles of the lower leg.

Causes of Shin Splints

  • Tight calf muscles
  • Weak intrinsic foot muscles/arches
  • Overtraining
  • Weak core and gluteal muscles
  • Improper footwear and/or gait
  • Hard or sloped running surfaces
  • High-impact movements (plyometrics)
  • Anatomical discrepancies and imbalances (e.g., flat or highly arched feet)

Females and those with higher mileage/workloads are slightly more likely to get shin splints. Without proper shin splints treatment and prevention, repetitive stress from activities like running and jumping can worsen inflammation.

How to Treat Shin Splints

At the Sports Recovery Annex, we utilize several methods for shin splints treatment:

Patient receiving Game Ready for shin splints
  1. Massage and Release Techniques: Massaging tight muscles and using cupping and Graston tools to release tension.
  2. Advanced Therapies: Infrared laser, ultrasound, and PiezoWave acoustic therapy to reduce deeper inflammation.
  3. Cryotherapy: GameReady and cryotherapy chamber treatments to reduce inflammation; research shows that whole-body cryotherapy significantly aids healing and recovery.
  4. Acupuncture & Dry Needling: Stimulating endorphins (our body’s natural painkillers) and bringing oxygen and nutrients to tight/inflamed muscles.
  5. Rehabilitation Exercises: Stretching and strengthening exercises based on a thorough evaluation by our healthcare providers. We test flexibility, mobility, strength, and perform orthopedic testing to determine specific root causes and develop a unique care plan.
  6. Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down Protocols: Instructions for patients to implement before and after workouts to help the body perform at its best.
  7. Additional Support: X-ray imaging, custom-made orthotics, gait training, and more.

These strategies are based on evaluations by our athletic trainers at the Sports Recovery Annex. Once we diagnose the root cause, we start treatment to address the symptoms and patterns, ultimately preventing the shin splints from returning.

Runner performing calf stretches

Preventing Shin Splints

To avoid shin splints or prevent their return, follow these tips for effective shin splints prevention:

  • Wear well-cushioned shoes and supportive orthotic inserts.
  • Thoroughly warm up before exercising.
  • Implement consistent and routine stretching.
  • Maintain varied exercise methods, including strength training.
  • Stay on top of your recovery.
Running shoes with cushion

Our bodies endure a lot of wear and tear, so we must invest in proper care and recovery. Seeking help from licensed and qualified healthcare practitioners is a great first step toward feeling your best. Visit us at the Sports Recovery Annex to address any physical issues and help you feel your optimal self!