Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTTS), or “shin splints” are common among runners, especially when returning from inactivity or after a rapid increase in mileage. Shin splints are known as pain on the anterior portion of the shin or just above the ankle.
The problem itself differs for each individual case but most commonly shin splints are associated with
- Over pronation of the ankle – the LEFT ankle is a cause of some shin plints.
- Inadequate stretching
- Unilateral leg dominance (one leg is stronger than the other) or other problems with the anterior tibialis, the tibial bone itself or tendons.
The most common site for shin splints is the medial area (the inside of the shin). Anterior shin splints (toward the outside of the leg) usually result from a muscular imbalance between the gastrocnemius (calf) and the anterior tibialis (shin muscles), and often afflict beginners who either have not yet adjusted to the stresses of running, not stretching enough, or are doing too much too soon.
Those who are predisposed to MTTS are those with a running history less than 5 years, increased body mass index, larger calf girth, increased hip rotation, and foot pronation. A sudden increase in mileage or general overuse is the typical cause of shin splints.
Prevention of MTTS can be afforded by taking adequate rest between runs, wearing shock-absorbing insoles, taping procedures and by wearing corrective orthotics.
Treatment of a current case of shin splints is mainly in the form of rest and ice, as this type of ailment is typically an overuse injury. Stretching and myofasicial release (foam rolling) of the calf can provide relief by lengthening the muscle and connective tissue in medial shin splint cases. Anterior shin splints require stretching for the anterior tibialis or foam rolling the anterior tibialis.
CAUTION: If you shin splints are horribly painful and you believe they have cause fractures in the bone (this is an extreme case) DO NOT apply added pressure such as foam rolling.
Foam Rolling Your Calf Muscle
Foam Rolling Your Anterior Tibialis Muscle
For a great stretch for the anterior tibalis try kneeling on a carpeted floor, legs and feet together and toes pointed directly back. Then slowly sit back onto your calves and heels, pushing your ankles into the floor until you feel tension in the muscles of your shin. Hold for 10 to 12 seconds, relax and repeat.
Consider cross training activities such as the elliptical, swimming and bike riding until you let the issue heal.