Called "medial tibial stress syndrome" by orthopaedists, shin splints are characterised by pain and tenderness along the inner edge of the tibia.
Shin splints usually develop after regular exercise such as running or playing sports. These repetitive actions can inflame the soft tissue around the tibia, including the muscles, tendons, and periosteum (thin layer of tissue covering a bone).
Risk factors that can increase the chances of shin splints include:
- Flatfeet or very rigid arches
- Changes to impact training (increased mileage, changing terrain, starting out etc)
- Military training
You doctor will make a diagnosis based on symptoms, activity levels, and an examination.
Treatment is usually non-surgical, with no evidence that surgery can really help this condition. Treatment starts with rest - it's essential to stop the activity that caused the problem in the first place, although you can replace it with other non-impact workouts (biking, swimming etc).
Stretching and ice treatment will help reduce the symptoms, and after a few weeks of rest, you should be able to resume low-level training.
When you do so, it is essential to warm up thoroughly before you exercise, and ease back into your training, watching for symptoms of a re-occurrence of the condition. Care should be taken to avoid whatever triggered the problem in the first place - e.g. running on hard surfaces, sudden increase in mileage etc.