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Shin Splints

What are shin splints?

Shin splints refers to pain and tenderness along or just behind the large bone in the lower leg (the tibia).

What causes shin splints?

Shin splints most often happen after hard exercise, sports, or repetitive activity. This repetitive action can lead to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and thin layer of tissue covering the shin bones, causing pain.

What are the symptoms of shin splints?

These are the most common symptoms of shin splints:

  • Pain felt on the front and outside of the shin. It's first felt when the heel touches the ground during running. In time, pain becomes constant and the shin is painful to the touch.

  • Pain that starts on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle. Pain gets worse when standing on the toes or rolling the ankle inward. As the shin splint progresses, pain will increase.

The symptoms of shin splints may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are shin splints diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can most often diagnose shin splints by reviewing your medical history and doing a physical exam. X-rays are often needed.

How are shin splints treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

The best course of treatment for shin splints is to stop any activity that's causing the pain, until the injury is healed. Other treatment may include:

  • Stretching exercises

  • Strengthening exercises

  • Cold packs

  • Medicine, such as ibuprofen

  • Running shoes with a stiff heel and special arch support

What can I do to prevent shin splints?

You may be able to prevent shin splints by wearing good fitting athletic shoes. Also, gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of a new exercise routine. It may also help to switch between high impact activities and low impact activities such as swimming or cycling.

Key points about shin splints

  • Shin splints refers to the pain and tenderness along or just behind the large bone in the lower leg.

  • They develop after hard exercise, sports, or repetitive activity.

  • Shin splints cause pain on the front or outside of the shins or on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle.

  • Treatment includes stopping the activity that causes the pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises may also help. You can also apply cold packs, take medicines such as ibuprofen, and wear good fitting athletic shoes.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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