Posterior Shin Splints


Posterior shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a common condition that affects individuals who engage in high-impact physical activities.

The condition is characterised by pain inside the shinbone, which can be particularly uncomfortable during or after physical activity.

Posterior Shin Splints: Causes and Risk Factors

Posterior shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common condition that affects athletes, runners, and people who engage in activities that involve repetitive impact on the shins. Unlike anterior shin splints, pain associated with posterior shin splints is usually felt along the inner border of the tibia bone, which runs down the lower leg.

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Causes of Posterior Shin Splints

The exact cause of posterior shin splints is unclear, but it is believed to result from repeated stress on the shin bone and surrounding muscles. This stress can cause small tears in the muscle tissue and inflammation in the periosteum, the thin layer of tissue covering the bone.

Some common causes of posterior shin splints include:

  • Overuse or repetitive stress on the lower leg muscles
  • Improper footwear
  • Running on hard or uneven surfaces
  • Flat feet or high arches
  • Weak or imbalanced lower leg muscles

Risk Factors for Posterior Shin Splints

Several factors can increase your risk of developing posterior shin splints, including:

  • Starting a new physical activity too quickly or intensively
  • Poor conditioning or lack of physical fitness
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a history of shin splints or other lower leg injuries
  • Wearing worn-out or ill-fitting shoes
  • Walking or running on hard or uneven surfaces

If you are experiencing pain in your shins, it is important to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Symptoms of Posterior Shin Splints

Posterior shin splints are a painful condition that can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of the condition typically include pain in the inner side of the lower leg and tenderness and swelling. The pain associated with posterior shin splints will often worsen during and after physical activity.


The most prominent symptom of posterior shin splints is pain in the inner side of the lower leg. The pain may be described as a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain, and may be present during physical activity, after exercise, or even during periods of rest.

Tenderness and Swelling

Another common symptom of posterior shin splints is tenderness and swelling along the inner side of the lower leg. This may be caused by inflammation of the area’s muscles, tendons, and bones, and can further exacerbate the pain associated with the condition.

Limited Range of Motion

Posterior shin splints can also cause a limited range of motion in the affected leg, particularly regarding dorsiflexion (lifting the foot upward). This can make walking, running, and other physical activities more difficult and painful.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Diagnosing Posterior Shin Splints

If you suspect posterior shin splints, it is important to seek a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. Your doctor may perform a physical exam to check for tenderness and swelling and may ask you to describe the type and location of your pain.

In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may also recommend imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to rule out other possible causes of your pain, such as stress fractures or compartment syndrome.

If you are diagnosed with posterior shin splints, your doctor may recommend:

  • Resting and avoiding activities that worsen your symptoms
  • Icing your shins to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Wearing shoes with good arch support and cushioning
  • Using orthotic inserts in your shoes to help support your feet
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen

Sometimes, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help your recovery. This may involve:

  • Stretching exercises to improve flexibility and reduce tightness in the muscles surrounding your shins
  • Strengthening exercises to improve the overall condition of your legs and ankles
  • Massage therapy to reduce muscle tension and increase blood flow
  • Low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling to maintain cardiovascular fitness while reducing stress on your shins

Treating Posterior Shin Splints

The treatment for posterior shin splints depends on the severity of the condition. In most cases, the condition can be managed with non-medical approaches. However, for more severe cases, medical treatment may be required.

Medical Treatment

  • If your pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe pain medication.
  • In some cases, anti-inflammatory medication or injections may be recommended.
  • For anyone with fractures or severe tendonitis, surgery may be necessary.

Non-Medical Treatment

  • Rest: Resting is the most important thing you can do to recover from posterior shin splints. Avoid activities that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Icing: Applying ice to the affected area for 20-30 minutes a few times a day can help reduce pain and inflammation. Be sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel to prevent skin damage.
  • Compression: Wearing compression socks or wraps can help reduce swelling and provide support to the affected area.
  • Elevation: Elevating your legs can help reduce swelling and improve blood flow to the affected area.
  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve flexibility and strength in the affected area, reducing the risk of further injury. Examples include calf stretches and toe raises.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can develop an exercise program tailored to your specific needs and help ensure you are using proper form to avoid further injury.

Preventing Posterior Shin Splints

While posterior shin splints can be painful and frustrating, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition. Following a few simple guidelines can help keep your shins healthy and pain-free.

1. Wear Appropriate Footwear

The right shoes can make all the difference in preventing posterior shin splints. Look for footwear that offers proper support for your feet and ankles, and that fits well. Avoid worn-out or ill-fitting shoes, as they can contribute to the development of shin splints.

2. Gradually Increase Activity Levels

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting to exercise, gradually increasing your activity levels is important. Sudden increases in exercise can put undue stress on your shins, leading to posterior shin splints. If you’re new to exercise, start with low-intensity activities and gradually work up to more intense workouts.

3. Take Breaks when Necessary

If you’re engaging in activities that put strain on your shins, such as running or jumping, it’s important to take regular breaks. Allow your muscles and joints time to rest and recover, which can help prevent the development of shin splints.

4. Strengthen Your Lower Legs

Strong lower leg muscles can help prevent posterior shin splints by providing additional support to your shins. Consider incorporating exercises that target your calves and shins into your workout routine, such as calf raises or toe taps.

5. Stretch Regularly

Tight muscles can stress your shins more, leading to posterior shin splints. Stretching regularly can help keep your muscles loose and flexible, reducing your risk of developing shin splints. Focus on stretching your calves, hamstrings, and shins.

6. Use Proper Technique

Whether you’re running, jumping, or engaging in other activities that stress your shins, it’s important to use proper technique. Avoid overstriding or landing too hard on your feet, as this can contribute to developing shin splints. Work with a trainer or coach to use proper form and technique.

Rehabilitation for Posterior Shin Splints

Recovering from posterior shin splints can take time and patience. Depending on the severity of the condition, rehabilitation may involve physical therapy, rest, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

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Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be an effective way to relieve pain and promote healing. A physical therapist can work with you to develop a customised rehabilitation plan that includes exercises to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, and reduce inflammation.

  • Physical therapy can also include massage and other hands-on techniques to help reduce muscle tension and promote blood flow to the affected area.
  • A physical therapist can also provide advice on how to modify your activities in order to prevent further damage to your shins.

Rest and Ice

Rest and ice are important for reducing pain and inflammation associated with posterior shin splints. Resting from physical activity can help reduce the stress placed on the shins, while applying ice to the affected area can help reduce swelling and discomfort.

  • It is important to avoid activities that cause pain or discomfort in the shins until they have fully healed.
  • Ice can be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, until symptoms improve.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles in the legs and feet. This can help reduce the risk of future injuries and improve your overall foot and leg health.

  • Consult with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any stretching or strengthening exercises.
  • Some exercises that may be recommended include calf stretches, toe raises, and ankle circles.
  • It is important to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercises over time.

Gradual Return to Physical Activity

Once your shin splints have healed, it is important to return to physical activity to avoid re-injury gradually. Start with low-impact activities, such as swimming or cycling, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.

  • Be sure to warm up properly before starting any physical activity, and cool down afterwards with stretches and light exercises.
  • If you experience any pain or discomfort during physical activity, stop immediately and rest until your shin splints have fully healed.

Natural Remedies for Posterior Shin Splints

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While traditional medical treatments are necessary to treat posterior shin splints, natural remedies can also relieve and support recovery. Here are some natural remedies that can help alleviate pain associated with posterior shin splints:

1. Rest and Ice

Rest is essential when recovering from posterior shin splints. It is advisable to avoid strenuous activities that may aggravate the condition. Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Wrap a towel around the ice pack and place it on the painful area for 15-20 minutes at a time.

2. Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises can help reduce pain and prevent the recurrence of posterior shin splints. Strengthening exercises for the calf muscles can also help alleviate pressure on the shin. Consult a physiotherapist for exercises that are specific to your condition.

3. Massage

Massaging the affected area can help increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. It can also help alleviate pain associated with posterior shin splints. Use your fingers or a foam roller to massage the affected area gently.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with posterior shin splints. Add turmeric to your meals or take turmeric supplements after consulting with your doctor.

5. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is rich in magnesium, which can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Add Epsom salt to warm water and soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. This can help relieve pain associated with posterior shin splints.

While natural remedies can provide relief, it’s important to consult with a doctor if you experience severe pain or if your symptoms persist.

Frequently Asked Questions about Posterior Shin Splints

How do you treat posterior shin splints?

Treatment for posterior shin splints includes rest, ice, stretching, strengthening exercises, proper footwear, orthotics, a gradual return to activity, pain relief, physical therapy, and medical evaluation for persistent pain.

What does posterior shin splints feel like?

Posterior shin splints cause pain along the inner edge of the shin bone (tibia), but the pain is located at the backside of the shin. It may feel like a deep ache, throbbing, or tenderness. The pain is often noticeable during or after physical activity, particularly activities that involve running, jumping, or excessive stress on the lower leg.

How do you heal posterior shin splints fast?

Healing posterior shin splints fast requires a combination of rest, ice, stretching, and strengthening exercises. Additionally, following a proper rehabilitation plan, using appropriate footwear, and gradually easing back into physical activities can speed up recovery. However, it’s essential not to rush the healing process and to avoid activities that exacerbate the pain.

Should you massage posterior shin splints?

Massaging posterior shin splints directly on the affected area can worsen the condition and cause more pain. Instead, focus on gentle stretching and self-massage of the surrounding muscles, such as the calves. Seek advice from a physical therapist or healthcare professional before trying any massage techniques to ensure you use safe and effective methods for your specific condition.