Shin splints is the common name for shin pain caused by overuse of the tibialis anterior muscle. The formal name is anterior compartment syndrome.
Shin splints is most common in people who have foot pronation, or flat feet, because the tibialis anterior muscle tries to hold the foot up as the foot rolls too far toward the ground. However, the muscle is overpowered by the weight of the persons’ body, causing the muscle to fatigue and become strained. This strain worsens and the muscle does not have enough time to recover before the person begins walking again (causing an overuse injury once more). This repeated process makes the tibialis muscle swell. Because this muscle is unique in that it is encased inside a sheath, it creates intense pressure on the muscle and causes great pain as it swells.
Another precipitating cause is walking uphill long distances, which requires you to keep pulling your foot and ankle up and thereby creating repetitive overuse of your tibialis anterior muscle.
Shockwave therapy is a very effective treatment for shin splints. It has an 85% – 90% success rate and is a process whereby sound waves are emitted over the injured area to create micro trauma, causing the muscle to repair itself by a process known as angiogenesis. This causes an increased blood flow to the area and repairing of the muscle. As it heals, the muscle swelling is reduced and pain goes away. No damage to the skin or surrounding tissues occurs as a result of the sound wave.
After relieving the pain, it is recommended that custom made foot orthotics be worn to correct the abnormal foot mechanics in order to help prevent a recurrence. Stretching, massage therapy, and other treatments may also be recommended.