Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome And Hiking

by | Jul 9, 2020 | 0 comments

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome And Hiking

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or shin splints are a real pain when hiking. Shin splints are the more common name, and medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is the more descriptive term now favored. No matter what you call it, hiking with MTSS is very uncomfortable. In this post, I’ll dive into common causes and ways you can manage this issue.

Like any ache or pain in the body, you should always seek professional medical help. This step will streamline your healing and get you back on the trail sooner than if you played a doctor on Google. 🙂

What is medial tibial stress syndrome?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, this is more commonly known as shin splints. In the medical community, words and definitions matter. To be more specific, the term has changed to medial tibial stress syndrome. This term changes nothing for you, the one suffering from pain.

The pain from MTSS can occur in various places on the front or back of the shin bone, or tibia. Additionally, there may be pain on the inside or outside aspect of the shin bone. See below or examples.

What causes MTSS?

Like many things in the body, it may be just one cause or a combination of a few things. For MTSS, we look to the surrounding muscles for strength and balance. On the front of the shin is the large tibialis anterior, but you may just know it as the big shin muscle.

If this muscle weak or not strong enough to manage the miles of hiking you’re doing, it’s going to inflame the tendon and cause some muscle pains on the front of your shin. This weakness, combined with too many miles, is typical of overuse injuries. You see, this large shin muscle must lift your toes when you walk AND control your toes back to the trail with each step. That’s a pretty handy feature to have for walking any distance.

Here are some of my favorite exercises to help build strong shin muscles:

  1. Heel Raises
  2. Heel Walks
  3. Elevated Toe Raise

You might also have a tight calf muscle, which will not allow the big shin muscle to work as it should. Some self-massage or stretching can do wonders on that front.

What if my pain is on the back or side of my shin bone?

There is a smaller but essential muscle on the back of the shin that helps control the arch shape and foot motion with uneven terrain. You can learn more about that muscle and its function here. Like the front side issues, a tight calf, overuse, and even over flattening of your foot while walking may contribute.

Solutions for both issues follow a similar path: strengthen the feet and lower leg muscles. Combine that with some stretches, the calf and shin muscles, and you’ll be better for it!

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Lee Welton