What are shin splints?

‘Shin splints’ is the common term for medial tibial stress syndrome. It refers to pain felt anywhere along the shinbone from knee to ankle. People who play sports that involve a lot of running are particularly prone to this injury. One of the most common reasons for this pain is overuse, such as trying to exercise beyond your current level of fitness.

Symptoms of shin splints

The symptoms and signs of shin splints can include:

  • Aches and pains are felt along the shinbone.
  • The area is tender and sore to touch.
  • The overlying skin may be red and inflamed.
  • The pain may be felt before, during or after running.

A range of causes for shin splints

  • Shin splints can be caused by a number of factors working in combination. These factors include:
  • Overuse – exercising too hard or trying to exercise beyond your current level of fitness can strain muscles, tendons, bones and joints. Overuse is one of the most common causes of shin splints.
  • Flat feet – the shin muscles are involved in maintaining the instep or arch of the foot. Flat feet can pull at the shin tendons and cause slight tearing.
  • Incorrect technique – poor running form, such as ‘rolling’ the feet inwards (pronation), can strain the muscles and tendons.
  • High impact activities – the impact of running on hard or uneven surfaces can injure the shin muscles and tendons.
  • Running shoes – wearing the wrong type of shoe while running can contribute to shin splints
  • Tight Muscles – tight soleus muscle as it attaches on to the bone.
  • Compartment syndrome – where there is pressure on either of the muscle compartments.


The history of the patient is an important tool in the diagnosing process. It depends upon a careful review of the patient’s history and a focused physical exam (on the examination of the shins and legs where local tenderness is noted). However, if the diagnosis is not confirmed a bone scan may be required.


  • The ideal treatment for shin splints is “Relative Rest”. This aims to maintain the person’s fitness through their recovery. Activities where the person isn’t weight bearing are recommended such as swimming, cycling.
  • Applying Ice to the area and taking anti-inflammatory also aid in the reduction of inflammation.
  • Stretches of the calf muscles.
  • Choosing appropriate foot wear.

Disclaimer: The information is for informative purposes and not to replace proper treatment. For more information or to book an appointment please contact Sydney Physios and Allied Health Services