Reducing painful shin splints

12 Aug, 2019

How can physiotherapy help Shin Splints

Shin splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is an exercise induced pain along the tibia (shin bone). Shin splints are a common overuse injury, especially within sporting and military populations. Shin splints are caused by a repetitive loading stress within the muscular compartments of the lower leg during activities such as running and jumping. The American Medical Associated (AMA) define shin splints as “pain and discomfort in the leg from repetitive running on hard surfaces or forcible, excessive use of the foot flexors”.

Signs and symptoms

  • Dull pain along the border of the tibia
  • Pain extends at least 5cm along the tibia
  • Tender to touch
  • Pain may improve across the course of exercise but return following exercise

When to seek help

It is important to seek assistance when pain limits you from your regular activity. Your physiotherapist will help to rule out other more sinister conditions such as stress fractures and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Therefore, your physiotherapist will help to make an accurate diagnose based on a thorough history and physical examination. This may involve screening you for some of the known risk factors listed below:

  • Female gender
  • Previous history of MTSS
  • Fewer years running experience
  • Orthotic use
  • Increase BMI
  • Flat feet


Treatment for shin splints is based around graded exposure to activity, correction of underlying overload factors and education on how to prevent further episodes. Treatment can be broken down into the following two phases:

Acute phase: aim is to relieve symptoms

  • 2-6 weeks of rest
  • Ice therapy
  • Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories may also be recommended for pain relief (consult with your pharmacist)
  • Alternative manual therapies provided by your physiotherapist

Subacute phase: aim is to resolve the underlying cause and return to pain-free activity. This may include

  • Graded exposure to training activities
  • Change in training conditions (eg. decrease running distance, intensity, avoid hills and uneven surfaces)
  • Proprioceptive balance training
  • Other biomechanical adaptations recommended by your physiotherapist

What to do now?

If you or a loved one is suffering from suspected MTSS, give us a call at Generation Physio. We have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All our of clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Call us on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.

Article written by Mia Pinchin

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