Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a common injury among athletes and runners that causes pain and discomfort along the shinbone or tibia.

The condition is characterized by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue in the lower leg, leading to sharp or aching pain that can be felt while exercising or during rest periods. If left untreated, shin splints can progress to more serious injuries such as stress fractures.

Risk factors:

Shin splints are often caused by overuse, particularly when an athlete or runner changes their routine or increases their training intensity too quickly. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing shin splints include:

Poor running mechanics

Wearing improper footwear for your foot type/running style

Running on uneven or hard surfaces

Weakness in the lower leg muscles.


Effective treatment for shin splints typically requires rest and rehabilitation, which may include:
  • Rest: Avoiding high-impact and weight-bearing activities that may exacerbate symptoms is the first line of treatment for shin splints. Athletes or runners often need to take a break from training or engage in lower-impact cross-training until symptoms subside.
  • Icing and pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol may be used temporarily to alleviate pain and discomfort. Additionally, icing the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time several times a day may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Consistent stretching and strengthening exercises can help to alleviate shin splints and prevent reoccurrence. Stretching the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and shin muscles can help to reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility. At the same time, strengthening exercises like heel raises or calf raises could help to improve lower leg and foot function.
  • Appropriate footwear is critical: Worn-out shoes, shoes without appropriate shock absorption, or shoes without arch support can cause shin splints. Changing shoes, arch supports, or adding cushioning may help alleviate the pain. If you’re unsure of what is best for you, a podiatrist should be your first port of call for footwear advice.
  • Physiotherapy may be recommended to treat persistent shin splints: A physical therapist will assess and formulate a plan of care to treat the underlying cause of the condition. This could involve additional stretching, strengthening, myofascial release, taping, or a brace prescription to help heal the affected area.

Shin splints are a common affliction, especially among runners and athletes. Although it is not usually dangerous, it could significantly interfere with everyday activities, especially if left untreated. Prevention is the key to avoiding shin splints, including gradually increasing physical activity and seeking advice from a trained professional.

If already suffering from shin splints or other lower leg pain, prompt medical attention and treatment, including rest and physiotherapy, is necessary to ensure a full, healthy recovery. Get in touch with your local Sports & Spinal Physiotherapist today to see how they can get you on the right road to recovery.

Written by Sports and Spinal Physiotherapist, Kirby Pitt


Bhusari N., & Deshmukh M. (2023). Shin Splint: A Review. Cureus 15 (1).