Shin Pain & Injury

Shin Pain & Injury

Article by John Miller

Shin Pain

Most shin pain results from chronic overuse resulting in overloading the structures such as your bone, muscle and tendons.

Common Sources of Shin Pain

Shin pain or injury is a prevalent lower leg complaint in runners and other athletes who need to run in their sport, e.g. football.  Shin pain most commonly manifests itself as shin splints.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are characterised by pain in the lower leg’s front or side, particularly near the shin and often involve small tears of the leg muscle near the shin bone or injury to the bone itself, e.g. periosteal injury. It is prevalent among people engaged in athletic pursuits such as running and walking.

Symptoms include tightness, tenderness on palpation of the edge of the shin bone (tibia) and throbbing of the shins during and after activity. The symptoms often disappear at rest then return as soon as the action is resumed. There are two main types of shin splints: anterior shin splints and posterior shin splints.

More info about Shin Splints.

Stress Fractures

Should shin splints progress, they may eventually present as stress fractures, which will not only affect your sporting performance but interrupt your training plan. Most stress fractures require you to rest for at least six weeks, so it is essential to differentiate between the two injuries. While causes can vary, all shin pain sufferers should undertake a professional examination to assess if any poor biomechanics, training schedules or dietary issues predispose you to a shin injury.

More info about Stress Fractures.

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome or acute form – CECS (Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome) is a condition where your circulation and soft tissue function become compromised by increased pressure within a space.

Acute compartment syndrome is a surgical emergency to prevent tissue death. Chronic compartment syndrome is reversible with sound professional advice and injury management.

More info about Compartment Syndrome.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS (or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is another form of overuse that can affect your muscles adjacent to the shin.

More info about DOMS.

Shin Pain Running

The most common cause of shin pain that we see at PhysioWorks is shin pain from running. Frequently the shin pain is caused by excessive changes in training loads. Overload can happen as runners ramp up their loads from zero to a few kilometres or at the other end of the spectrum as runners prepare for more extended events, e.g. marathon or Ironman events.

However, any sport that involves running or even landing activities can experience shin pain due to overloading. This overload can include football codes, netball or even high-speed and load sports such as gymnastics.

More info: Running Injuries

Leg Cramps

Generally, aching legs, leg cramps can all result in leg pain. Another interesting source of leg pain is Restless Legs Syndrome.

Calf and Achilles Injuries

While not often thought of as a shin pain source, behind your shin is your calf which is vulnerable to a torn calf muscle or an Achilles tendinopathy.

Referred Pain

Plus, you can also experience referred pain to your shin from sciatica or a lower back injury.

Shin Pain Treatment

At PhysioWorks, we have several of our highly skilled physiotherapists with a particular interest in shin pain and joint injury. Traditionally, most shin pain conditions receive treatment with only short-term aims in mind. e.g. rest or painkillers.

One of the differences you’ll notice with PhysioWorks treatment is the thorough analysis of WHY you have your shin pain, rather than only treating your symptomatic pain. We strongly believe that if you don’t correct why you are vulnerable to shin pain, it is only a matter of time before your shin pain returns.

Research findings have modified modern physiotherapy treatment approaches to shin pain. Together with a thorough knee and lower limb assessment, your treatment can progress quickly to get you pain-free and performing your regular sport or daily activities in the shortest time possible.

Please seek the professional healthcare advice of your physiotherapist regarding your shin pain.

Acute Injury Signs

Acute Injury Management.

Here are some warning signs that you have an injury. While some injuries are immediately evident, others can creep up slowly and progressively get worse. If you don't pay attention to both types of injuries, chronic problems can develop.

For detailed information on specific injuries, check out the injury by body part section.

Don't Ignore these Injury Warning Signs

Joint Pain

Joint pain, particularly in the knee, ankle, elbow, and wrist joints, should never be ignored. Because these joints are not covered by muscle, pain here is rarely of muscular origin. Joint pain that lasts more than 48 hours requires a professional diagnosis.

Tenderness

If you can elicit pain at a specific point in a bone, muscle, or joint, you may have a significant injury by pressing your finger into it. If the same spot on the other side of the body does not produce the same pain, you should probably see your health professional.  

Swelling

Nearly all sports or musculoskeletal injuries cause swelling. Swelling is usually quite obvious and can be seen, but occasionally you may feel as though something is swollen or "full" even though it looks normal. Swelling usually goes along with pain, redness and heat.

Reduced Range of Motion

If the swelling isn't obvious, you can usually find it by checking for a reduced range of motion in a joint. If there is significant swelling within a joint, you will lose range of motion. Compare one side of the body with the other to identify major differences. If there are any, you probably have an injury that needs attention.

Weakness

Compare sides for weakness by performing the same task. One way to tell is to lift the same weight with the right and left sides and look at the result. Or try to place body weight on one leg and then the other. A difference in your ability to support your weight is another suggestion of an injury that requires attention.

Immediate Injury Treatment: Step-by-Step Guidelines

  • Stop the activity immediately.
  • Wrap the injured part in a compression bandage.
  • Apply ice to the injured part (use a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables).
  • Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling.
  • Consult your health practitioner for a proper diagnosis of any serious injury.
  • Rehabilitate your injury under professional guidance.
  • Seek a second opinion if you are not improving.