Shin splints, shin pain, compartment syndrome


Nurse Director
Jun 8, 2007
The North
United Kingdom United Kingdom
All much the same kind of thing - pain in the front of the lower leg. It can be very tender and sensitive to touch, very painful and resists things like stretches and medication. However, understanding the condition is key to dealing with it and, much, much better, preventing it.

Let's start with some anatomy

The lower leg has some very powerful muscles which can be very prone to over use or bad use.

ant ll-horz.jpg

All the muscles starred are heavily engaged when walking and running, especially if the leg is not in a fit condition for that activity and/or not properly warmed up. These muscles can be inflamed and even injured by excessive exercise especially walking and running when the leg is out of condition and not warmed up. Swelling is also an issue. But because the capacity of the lower leg is not great, it being a small, slender cylinder, there isn't much room to accommodate swelling and inflammation so pressure is also applied to the muscles which makes things worse.

Shin and calf pain is caused by walking or running - too much, too far, with a bad gait, too fast for your physical condition such as after surgery when the leg/knee is in recovery mode. In other words, it's a self-inflicted injury and will only subside and get better when you stop doing what has caused it.

The pain pattern can be like this

shin splints 3.JPG

Compartment Syndrome.
This pressure can just be mild where it enhances and increases the pain or it can be extreme when the pain can be excessive and may even be a surgical emergency if it happens after surgery or a serious injury such as fractured bones or excessive bleeding. That's definitely the worst case scenario but lesser forms of compartment syndrome can be troublesome, painful, difficult to treat and and very debilitating. It's actually not a very common event.

You can see here where the swelling/fluid is collecting within the muscle bodies.

compartment syndrome.JPG

A secondary issue that can arise from this shin pain is that it transfers down the leg and into the foot. Because the two principle muscles affected - tibialis anterior and posterior - are also important structures in the foot, significantly employed when walking and running, pain can be experienced across the bridge the foot into the toes and even to the extent of causes plantar fasciitis which is pain in the sole of the foot.

a itb-horz.jpg

plantar fasciitis.JPG

There are many pet theories about treating shin splints or compartment syndrome but few are found to be very effective. In the early/milder stages, simple stretches and exercises like these

shin splint 2-vert.jpg
shin pain stretches.jpg

shin splint 1.JPG

Remember, do not over do any of these. Gentle and at regular intervals is the key.

More effective treatment can obtained from a good chiropractor.

And finally, read this BoneSmart philosophy for sensible post op therapy

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