Running Injuries: Anterior Compartment Syndrome AKA Shin Splints


This article is by Islington's Angel Sports Injury and Physiotherapy Clinic's physiotherapist and looks at:

  • anatomy of the lower leg
  • signs and sypmptoms of shin splints

Anterior compartment syndrome has to be considered when there is pain in the front of the shins. The location of the pain also gives it its other name ‘shin splints’. This is a chronic condition and is the result of over training and is a very different condition from acute anterior compartment syndrome which can be a medical emergency.

inflamation in the anterior compartment of the leg can cause shin splointsThe lower leg contains two bones, the fibula which is the smaller bone on the outside of the lower leg that starts just below the level of the knee and extends downwards to form the outside ankle bone. The bigger leg bone is the tibia and this extends from the knee joint to form the medial anklebone.

Anterior compartment syndrome pain is located between the two bones and is due to the expansion of the major muscle in the area tibialis anterior, inside its inelastic fascial sheath. The action of this muscle is to dorsi flex and invert the foot and the muscle is used extensively in activities that repetitively dorsi flex and plantar flex the foot.

Activities such as running up and down hills can overuse the muscle. With an increase in blood inside the muscle the muscle can’t expand anywhere due to the anatomical boundaries, lateral and medial to the muscle are the tibia and fibula that are of course bones!

Signs and Symptoms of Anterior Compartment Syndrome

• Pain induced only by specific activity and often at a specific point in the workout
• Pain and tightness in the shin
• Decreased sensation on the top of the foot in the area above the second toe
• Weakness may be noted on toe extension and dorsiflexion of the foot
• Tingling into the toes
• Decreased dorsal is pedis pulse may be noted by a trained practitioner (Supplied by the anterior tibial artery)
• Symptoms disappear once activity ceases

Triathletes are particularly prone to this problem as they pull their pedals up with their feet which tightens the muscle and then they go off on a run. They often find that towards the end of the cycle their toes are beginning to tingle a bit and that no mucking about with shoe tension can alleviate the problem.

If these signs and symptoms are familiar to you and you are having trouble with cycling and running causing chronic anterior compartment syndrome contact Islington’s Angel Sports Injury and Physiotherapy Clinic and get it treated.


ang4l sports injury and physiotherapy clinic Islington