This paper will define the condition commonly known as "shin splints," as well as discuss diagnosis and treatment. The topic will be discussed as much as possible from a chiropractic point of view, particularly when chiropractic treatments and diagnostic methods differ substantially from more "traditional" medical techniques and procedures for diagnosis and treatment of shin splints.
The term "Shin splints" is commonly used to refer to any anterior or medial pain in the lower leg. More precisely, however, the AMA subcommittee on classification of sports injuries states that clinicians should limit the term "shin splints" to "musculotendinous inflammations and exclude fractures and schemic disorders" (3:102). Pain from stress fractures usually occurs approximately midway down the front part of the lower leg (tibia). Pain from shin splints or, more properly, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), usually occurs on the lower third (the lower "distal") of the lower leg and is usually the result of tendonitis or muscle inflammation rather than damage to the tibia itself.
MTSS pain can be quite severe and often reoccurs, even after treatment. It usually manifests during or after leg-stressing activities such as running or jumping. Medical practitioners thus classify MTSS as an overuse injury. Overuse can result not only from excessive activity, but from weak muscles, inadequate or worn footwear, hard terrain, fallen arches, flat feet or overpronation (turned-in ankles). Early treatment is important to avoid long-term problems.
Shin splints are most common among runners. Thirty-five percent of the runners in a one-year study by Kaplan, et al., incurred a musculoskeletal injury (3:105), and most running injuries are to the lower leg and feet. Nearly 20 percent of all running injuries are shin splints (3:106), a result of the fact that, with each stride, a runner's leg absorbs two to three times his or her entire body weight, ...