Shin Splints – Causes and Treatment for the Anterior Tibials

shin splintsShin Splints are also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).  The pain is caused by an underlying problem.  If you have been stepping up your game in the gym, or running greater distances, chances are you may get this dreadful pain in the front of your shins.  You don’t have to be new to working out to experience them, even professional athletes do from time to time.

Usually the pain occurs because of too much intense exercise, then not allowing a period of recovery.  In my experience, gym users who like running/brisk walking on the treadmill can develop this condition especially when they use an incline which is too steep for the prolonged intensity they give it.  Twenty minutes or so on a sharp incline will test anyone’s poor tibials and can bring on days of distressing pain.

The pain is due to the inflammation of the anterior tibial muscles being overworked, this can also affect tissues covering the shin bones and extend to the tendons.  Other causes can be due to flat feet, unstable ankles or inflexible arches, since they tend to place more stress on the tibials.  Worse still are stress fractures, these need a lot of time to heal completely.

Sometimes it is a change in routine that can bring on shin splints, suddenly try an intense aerobic class after taking it easy, then you may suffer with tibial pain.  High impact sports especially on harder surfaces such as football, rugby, tennis and basketball can contribute to shin splints as they involve stop start movements with a lot of sudden direction changes.

To ease the pain and to heal properly:

  • Rest the legs as much as possible and steer clear of any aerobic activity, but as your tibials will hurt quite a lot in the first couple of days, this won’t be hard to do.  Some experts recommend 2-4 weeks of rest.
  • When you feel the pain easing, you can try some gentle exercise to stretch the muscles, such as swimming, but remember to warm up carefully.
  • Avoid hard surfaces such as asphalt.
  • Cold packs can be useful to bring the swelling down.
  • If stress fractures are present, you will need to take the advice of your GP and return to exercise when the X-Rays show complete healing has occurred.


  • A good pair of running shoes is essential, pick a pair that is well cushioned and also for added shock absorbing protection, you could insert a pair of gel insoles.
  • If you do suffer with flat feet, there are orthotic insoles that can help support the arches of your feet.  They can be invaluable when working out as they will also help to create a more comfortable position for your ankles.
  • Try to avoid running on very steep inclines for long periods of time, shin splints can develop in even the most seasoned runner.

The tibials are located on the bladder meridian, so you if you suffer frequently from shin splints, you might like to try strengthening this meridian with vitamin A: found in leafy green vegetables and fish oils.  Vitamin E can be helpful too: found in eggs and nuts.  The need for water is particularly indicated with this condition so be sure to drink plenty.

Post Author: Max

Massimo (Max) Vencato holds a doctorate (PhD) in Sports and Exercise Psychology and a Degree in Sports Sciences (first class with honours). He works today as a cardiac rehabilitation trainer, personal trainer (specialising in weight loss) and lecturer in Sports and Exercise Psychology at Brunel University London.

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