The term “Shinsplints” is a general term that describes a symptom of tibial stress, which can be anterior (front of lower leg = shin) or posterior (back of lower leg = calf). Pain is caused by triggerpoints and excessive tightness which causes the muscle(s) to pull at their attachments to the tibial leg bone. Shin pain can occur for a variety of reasons, but in most cases, it’s a result of doing too much of an activity that the long toe flexors and other calf muscles are not accustomed to. Roller blading, iceskating, walking or running hills/stairs, and jumping rope involve repetitive and forceful toe flexion and extension, which stresses the toe flexors and creates triggerpoints in the belly of the muscle. Wearing “really bad” unsupportive shoes such as flip flop sandals, hard dress shoes, poorly fitted shoes (too small/large) or shoes that are excessively worn down or split on the underside can also cause shin pain, as they involve excessive toe gripping or flexion.
Also common and unfortunate are the situations where both the unaccustomed activity is combined with the poor footwear – soldiers running windsprints in combat boots is a good example. In most of these cases, rest, ice, anti-inflammatory OTC drugs, and massage of the calf muscles are all good remedies to combine in resolving the pain and promoting healing. Considering shin splints are *usually* felt at the front of the lower leg in the meaty part at the outside, it’s surprising to many people that the source of the problem is most often usually at the back of the leg. Self massage of the lower leg is pretty easy since it’s so accessible, and stretching it is easy also. If you find that your shin pain isn’t resolving after rest, ice, stretching and massage (and improving your footwear!), you might want to see your physician to rule out the possibility of a stress fracture. This is when the bone has been fatigued so much over time that it cracks in the area where it’s been over stressed.
This is an excellent article on Tibial Stress Syndrome if you would like more information: