Many sports people suffer with problems with the inside of their shin bones (tibias), usually at the bottom, by the ankle. Sports that are associated with ankle stress (e.g. running) are particularly prone to this kind of injury. The tibia is sensitive to pressure and sometimes swells slightly. This is sometimes referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), but also tibia membrane infection, periostitis or shin splints. This syndrome is a response to the stress on the lower legs.
When landing, the calf muscles on the outside of the tibia will absorb the shock. When this occurs, there is traction on the shin bone (tibia). If training is not gradual enough and/or you do too much exercise, these muscles will cause more traction and the external stress on the shin bone is greater (you do more sport). This leads to micro-damage of the tibia. Under normal circumstances, the bone can repair itself but if it is being overused, the recuperation time is often insufficient.
- The tibia is sensitive when it is pressed.
- The injury can evolve in various phases:
- Acute: pain on the shins when you start exercising
- Sub-acute: pain in the shin bone at the start and during exercise and when resting
- Chronic: a great deal of pain at the start of exercise, and the pain continues during exercise and also when resting. The pain is present even during light activities (walking, going down stairs).
As this injury relates to excessive stress, the lower leg should not be used any more than necessary. Certainly in the acute phase, it is important to keep on exercising but at a reduced intensity (aqua-aerobics, cycling, cross-trainer, etc.). These sports eliminate the cause but you can continue to work on your endurance. Always contact your doctor in order to ascertain how far the injury has progressed and to draw up an individual treatment programme.
Place ice on the injury within 20 minutes of exercise and stretch the calf muscles. Wear shock absorbing shoes to avoid extra stress.
- Make sure you warm up and cool down efficiently
- Build your training up slowly
- Run slower on hard surfaces
- Train your calf muscles so that they can cope with the shocks
- Buy new running shoes
- Buy compression socks