This is a term that relates to a muscular pain along the front border of the shin bone in the area covered by muscle (striped zone) on diagram 1. The pain can range from a dull ache to severe pain that stops the sufferer from performing normal daily activities.
The term shin splints represents a group of conditions. The majority of sufferers will be experiencing a simple mechanical problem brought about by the tibial muscle group (shown in the diagram) being put under more physical stress than it can tolerate. Sometimes this stress is due to a sudden increase in activity, such as the start of a sporting season, and will resolve as the muscle becomes conditioned or fitter. In other cases, the problem will worsen as exercise continues through the season. If this occurs, treatment is required. Most commonly, shin pain is directly caused by an abnormal foot behaviour called pronation. This is a rolling in or collapse of the foot during the walking / running cycle, especially occurring as the heel of the foot that is behind you starts to lift off the ground. The collapse in the arch causes the bottom attachment of the muscle (in the foot) to pivot away from the attachment in the leg as the foot pivots. This makes the tibial muscles longer than they should be and changes their alignment from being nearly straight to being more J shaped. Both of these changes mean that the muscles have to squeeze harder to produce the same force. At the same time, because it is the tibial muscles job to resist pronation, they have more work to do. The double disadvantage of more to do and less ability to achieve it makes the muscles work too hard and results in an overuse
It is important to know that an overuse injury doesn t necessarily mean that the best thing to do is to avoid activity. In the majority of cases, the muscle group is only being overused because the faulty mechanics of the leg are making the muscle work excessively. With proper treatment by the podiatrist, the foot function can be corrected and the job of the tibial muscles will return to normal. Proper examination of the foot and leg are necessary to determine if your shin pain is something other than the most common type described above. See the podiatrist for a full assessment and appropriate treatment.