The shin is the common name for the front of the lower leg bone (tibia) and its associated muscles and tendons. While muscles on the front of the leg (primarily the anterior tibialis) serve to point the toes and foot upwards (dorsiflexion), the tibialis posterior serves to point the toes and foot downwards (plantarflexion).
Anterior shin splints exist on the front of the lower leg, while posterior shin splints present pain along the inside edge of the lower leg in the tibialis posterior tendon. The role of the tibialis posterior is to support the arch as the body moves over the foot during the gait cycle. In medical terms, posterior shin splints is known as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, or PTTD. PTTD describes a weakening of the tibialis posterior tendon and in severe cases may result in a rupture of the tendon. Therefore, posterior shin splints can be looked at as the onset of PTTD.
If the forces (singular or cumulative) applied to the tendon are greater than what the tendon can bear in its current state, inflammation and microtrauma will result. Excessive pronation, changes of shoe or running surface, compensations for previous injuries or poor mechanics, and general overuse are all common causes of posterior shin splints. Other causes include muscle imbalances in the leg, flat feet or fallen arches, and activity that requires frequent and abrupt changes in direction.
Posterior shin splint pain is specific to the medial ankle, just behind the medial malleolus and along the lower and inner shin. Note that this location is different from anterior shin splints. Pain will be felt to the touch and generally will not exhibit swelling. The pain can range anywhere from faint and annoying to sharp and debilitating. When the condition worsens, bumps can be felt along the area and represent major inflammation and distortions in the underlying fascia. At the onset pain is generally felt at the beginning of activity and dissipates over a short period of time. As the condition worsens the pain is constant and could result in stress fractures.
KT Tape can be a great help with pain and speeding the healing process. KT Tape helps to increase circulation to relieve inflammation, relieve pressure on the painful area, and take stress off of the tissue. Rest is key with overuse injuries and make sure to ice after activity. Other helpful treatments include:
Adjusting to the proper footwear for foot type
Run on softer surfaces
Stretch sufficiently prior to activity
Use anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)