Shin splints is the term given to an athletic medical condition referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, characterized by painful swelling that occurs in the lower leg. A posterior shin splint involves stress injury of the tibialis posterior muscle, while the anterior tibialis is affected with shin splints in the front lower portion of the leg. Tibial stress typically happens in the course of some type of aerobic exercise, such as walking, jumping, and especially running. Treatment generally includes rest, the application of ice packs, and taking a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
The tibialis posterior is the lower leg muscle that runs from the inner side of the foot, ending at the back of the knee joint. When pain occurs during exercise, it is a sharp ache felt in the back or inside of the lower part of the leg or ankle, and any continued use of the muscle can be difficult. Occurring as a result of the muscle's attempt to maintain proper leg and foot alignment, a posterior shin splint may even cause a fracture or muscle tear, if allowed to be left untreated or the problem with pronation is not corrected.
Frequently, a posterior shin splint is caused by having flat feet, in which arches are absent of support resulting in the bottom of the feet laying flat to the floor, putting additional stress on the lower leg, especially during exercise. Symptoms can be alleviated by placing supportive soles inside of shoes and stretching well prior to exercise, paying particular attention to the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Ankle or other lower leg supports are also sometimes helpful.
Corticosteroid injections should not be used to treat shin splints, as they may actually contribute to the development of more problems. Administering cold either by immersing the lower leg in an ice water tub or by placing ice packs on the affected limb is often indicated for treatment of a posterior shin splint. Changes in workout regimen, such as switching from running on a hard to a softer surface or to riding a bike, not only provides a rest for stressed muscles, but it can also be used as a preventative measure. Continuing to exercise through this kind of injury will not help and may cause a stress fracture or lead to compartment syndrome, a serious condition common in certain injuries of the lower leg, causing a build-up of pressure due to swelling. Obstructing blood circulation, compartment syndrome damages nerves as well as other tissues.