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What Is Shin Splints? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Shin Splints refer to several generalized pain in the shin that take place in the front of your lower leg, along the tibia or shin bone. The pain usually originates from the outer front area of the lower leg, called anterior shin splint or the back of the lower leg called posterior medial shin splint.

shin splints posterior anterior painShin splints (medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome) occur from increasing stress on soleus muscle in your lower leg, where it attaches to the shinbone (tibia). If you continue giving it stress, the posterior tibialis muscle and the connective tissue (periosteum) that covers your shinbone may get irritated and inflamed.

Shin splints typically occur because of overloading on the soft tissues through repetitive trauma from impact activities which lack time for recovery between activity and conditioning.

Shin splints commonly occur in runners and those involved in sports which involve sudden starts and stops including soccer, football, tennis or basketball.

There is no reason to ditch your morning jog or cardio because of the risk of shin splints. In most cases, shin splints can be effectively treated with self-care measures such as rest and ice. Modifying your footwear and exercise routine can also prevent symptoms from recurring.


Shin splints occur due to excessive force on the tibia and the connective tissues that attach to it. This overload is normally tibia and fibula shin bonescaused by athletic activities like:

  • Running or a tilted surface
  • Running downhill
  • Running in improper or worn-out footwear
  • Engaging in sports activities which involve too many starts and stops such as tennis and basketball

Shin splints may also take place due to errors in training and routine such as running to fast, too hard or for long periods.

Signs and Symptoms Of Shin Splints

Common signs and symptoms of shin splints include:

  • Mild swelling of the lower leg
  • Pain, soreness or tenderness along the inner region of the lower leg

During the early stages, the pain may disappear once you stop activity however, as the injury progresses the pain will be continuous.

When to seek medical attention

See a health care provider if self-care measures are ineffective at relieving pain. You may be referred to an orthopedist afterwards.


pain from medial tibial stress syndromeSeek immediate medical help if:

  • Severe pain in the shin follows an accident or fall
  • Pain in the shin persists even while resting
  • The affected shin is hot and inflamed
  • Symptoms such as swelling begin to worsen




In most cases, self-care measures should do the trick:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that may cause symptoms such as pain, discomfort and swelling but do not stop activity completely. While you let the shin splint heal, make sure you perform low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming or water running. If the pain makes you limp, use crutches until you can resume walking normally.
  • Ice the affected region. Apply ice packs to the affected area for about 15 to 20 minutes, 4 to 8 times per day until symptoms subside.
  • Control swelling. To control swelling you can elevated the shin above heart level while you rest or whenever possible. Compressing the shin with an elastic bandage or compression sleeve (the Neo G Calf/Shin Sleeve is an excellent choice) may also help. Be sure to loosen the wrap if the area becomes numb or if you begin to swell below the wrap. 
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication. Try ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain.
  • Wear proper footwear. See your doctor so that he recommends a shoe that matches your foot type and type of activity you are involved in.

Resume physical activity gradually. If you do not let your shin heal, continuous activity will only result in prolonged pain.

 Related Article: What Is Osgood-Schlatter Disease? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

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