Shin splints are an interesting condition… mainly in that they’re not an actually condition. “Shin splints” is a generic term for a number of different conditions that cause pain of the lower leg. Different types include: anterior tibial shin splints, posterior tibial shin splints, stress fractures, periostitis and tendinitis. The cause and treatment varies depending on what type you have.
Perhaps the most common type is anterior tibial shin splints. With anterior tibial shin splints, the muscle on the front of the shin becomes tight and painful, often limiting activity. Often times anterior tibial shin splints arise from running or other high impact activities, particularly those performed on an incline, like uphill running. Generally speaking, anterior tibial shin splints are caused by tightness of the calf muscles which not only makes the anterior tibialis muscle have to work harder to lift the foot but actually impairs it at the same time. This leads to tightness, cramping, and inflammation of the anterior tibialis and its tendon.
Contributing factors to anterior tibial shin splints includes hyperextended knees, poor ankle stability, flat feet and knock knees. Treating them is usually pretty simple. Stretch the calves, strengthen the shins, get better footwear with adequate arch support, and REST. Throw in some stability-building exercises for the ankles and hips and you’ll likely be home free. However, some cases will prove more stubborn and require additional interventions.