Shin Splints

Shin splints are a group of painful conditions that affect the front, side or back of the lower leg.  There are five main causes of shin splints and your physiotherapist & exercise physiologist will discuss the type that affects you.  All five have common elements that need to be addressed in order to resolve the problem.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints are an overuse problem.  This means that the activity you are asking the lower leg to do is more than it can handle.  A primary culprit causing shin splints is a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a workout schedule.  The result is a breakdown in the tissue at a faster rate than the body can repair.  The tissue that is the weakest will break down and be the cause of your shin splints.

For example, periostitis is an inflammation of the periosteum (the connective tissue lining the bone), tenoperiostitis is an inflammation of the tendon connecting a muscle to the bone and a stress fracture is a breakdown of the bone itself.

Shin Splints

Some biomechanical factors that can increase the risk of shin splints include over-pronation of the feet (excessive inward rolling onto the arches), weak ankle or leg muscles or tightness in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.


The treatment for shin splints differs slightly based on the exact cause of your pain, however the most common elements are relative rest until the pain settles, ice and anti-inflammatories to reduce the pain, correction of biomechanical factors such as strengthening weak muscles, stretching tight muscles and if appropriate, orthotic and footwear advice.  Relative rest means a modification of your activities until you can safely return to your sport and this time will vary based on your specific injury.  Your fitness can usually be maintained with non-weight bearing activities such as swimming, cycling or running in water.  Your physiotherapist &/or exercise physiologists will discuss in detail what is most appropriate for you and help to guide your rehabilitation and safe return back to sporting activities.

For more information on Shin Splints, refer to our previous article ‘Shin Splints Explained’:

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