woman running

Shin splints are one of the most common complaints of athletes. Each year as their sports go back into season and practices start back up, athletes push themselves to get back into shape. As a result, athletes frequently end up with discomfort on the inside of the lower leg and chances are good that it’s shin splints.

Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), or shin splints as it’s more commonly known, is defined as pain along the tibia (the long bone in the front of your lower leg) that occurs during activity. This pain takes place when too much stress or force is placed on the tibia and surrounding anatomy.

Those who experience MTSS describe their symptoms as pain along the tibia, pain before, during, and/or after activity, and tenderness to the touch.

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Causes of Shin Splints

Sometimes it isn’t just starting to exercise too quickly or too soon that can cause this pesky injury. In addition to not increasing your exercise gradually, there are certain biological factors that can make you more likely to get MTSS. Some of these include:

  • Problems with the arch of your foot
  • Muscular imbalances in the lower leg
  • Running on hard and/or inclined running surfaces
  • Inadequate shoes

Treating Shin Splints

Some of the recommendations for treating MTSS include:

  • Rest is usually the biggest component in getting rid of this annoying injury. But if you absolutely cannot stop exercising, try icing to combat the inflammation that is taking place in your lower legs.
  • Compression therapy, such as the use of neoprene sleeves, has risen in popularity, and can sometimes help with the body’s inflammatory response to the acute injury. Kinesiotape, a tape that is thought to increase blood flow to the area, is another method of treatment that has become more in recent years.
  • Prevention. Make sure to gradually increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your runs. Consider purchasing quality running shoes and utilizing shock-absorbing insoles if necessary. And most important, let pain be your guide.

A sports medicine physician or physical therapist can provide the best advice on treatment and prevention of shin splints. For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine experts, call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

About Sports Medicine

Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.