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Your Body - Lower Leg Pain / Injury / Shin Splints

Shin Splints

Shin splints are a term commonly used to describe any lower leg pain. However, shin splints are only one of several conditions that affect the lower leg. The most common causes of lower leg pain is general shin soreness.

What are Shin Splints?

The main components of the lower leg that are affected by the pain associated with shin splints are:

  • The Tibia and Fibula. These are the two bones in the lower leg. The tibia is situated on the medial, or inside of the lower leg. While the fibula is situated on the lateral, or outside of the lower leg.
  • There are also a large number of the muscles that attach to the tibia and fibula. It's these muscles, when overworked, that pull on the tibia and fibula and cause the pain associated with shin splints.

Specifically, the pain associated with shin splints is a result of fatigue and trauma to the muscle's tendons where they attach themselves to the tibia. In an effort to keep the foot, ankle and lower leg stable, the muscles exert a great force on the tibia. This excessive force can result in the tendons being partially torn away from the bone.

What Causes Shin Splints?

While there are many causes of shin splints, they can all be categorized into two main groups. Overload (or training errors), and Biomechanical Inefficiencies.

Overload (or training errors): Shin splints are commonly associated with sports that require a lot of running or weight bearing activity. However, it is not necessarily the added weight or force applied to the muscles and tendons of the lower leg, but rather the impact force associated with running and weight bearing activities.

In other words, it's not the running itself, but the sudden shock force of repeated landings and change of direction that causes the problem. When the muscles and tendons become fatigued and overloaded, they lose their ability to adequately absorb the damaging shock force.

Other overload causes include:

  • Exercising on hard surfaces, like concrete
  • Exercising on uneven ground
  • Beginning an exercise program after a long lay-off period
  • Increasing exercise intensity or duration too quickly
  • Exercising in worn out or ill fitting shoes... and
  • Excessive uphill or downhill running.

Biomechanical Inefficiencies: The major biomechanical inefficiency contributing to shin splints is that of flat feet. Flat feet lead to a second biomechanical inefficiency called over-pronation. Pronation occurs just after the heal strikes the ground. The foot flattens out, and then continues to roll inward.

Over-pronation occurs when the foot and ankle continue to roll excessively inward. This excessive inward rolling causes the tibia to twist, which in-turn, over stretches the muscles of the lower leg.

Other biomechanical causes include:

  • Poor running mechanics
  • Tight, stiff muscles in the lower leg
  • Running with excessive forward lean
  • Running with excessive backwards lean
  • Landing on the balls of your foot... and
  • Running with your toes pointed outwards.

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"After suffering from lower back pain for many years, I thought I should get something done about it. I was recommended to see Ross, Unsure at the time about seeing a Sports Injury Specialist, as my complaint was defiantly not a sporting injury! I thought recommendation is a strong piece of advice so I went to see Ross, What a good move. He explained that just because the injury was not sustained during sport the diagnosing and treatment is still the same. He subsequently got straight to the site of pain, with an in depth examination and a clear diagnosis, the treatment was very successful. I am now able to sit at my desk at work pain free." Miss. Chappel