Shin Splints


Shin splints, also known as tibial stress syndrome or medial tibial stress syndrome, are painful when the muscles and tendons around the shinbone become inflamed due to repetitive stress. 

The most common symptom of shin splints is a sharp or dull pain in the lower leg, along the inner border of the shinbone. The pain may occur during or after physical activity and can be aggravated by walking or running. Other symptoms may include swelling, tenderness, or redness along the affected area.

Various factors, such as overuse injuries, biomechanical issues, and bone stress, can cause shin splints. Activities that involve repetitive stress on the lower leg, such as running or jumping, can increase the risk. Biomechanical issues, such as flat feet or incorrect running technique, can also contribute to developing shin splints. Additionally, certain bone conditions, such as stress fractures, can cause shin splint-like pain.

Diagnosis of shin splints typically involves a physical examination, including gait analysis, and imaging tests such as MRI. Treatment options for shin splints may include physical therapy, orthotics, anti-inflammatory treatment, cryotherapy, and pain management techniques. Working with a sports medicine professional is important to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Shin Splints – What You Need to Know

If you’re a runner or play sports that involve a lot of running, you may have heard of shin splints. But what exactly are they?

Shin Splints - What You Need to Know
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It refers to pain in the shin bone, which is also known as the tibia. The medical term for shin splints is tibial stress syndrome or medial tibial stress syndrome. The pain is usually felt along the inner part of the shin bone and is often described as a dull, aching.

The Different Types of Shin Splints

There are two main types of shin splints: tibial stress syndrome and medial tibial stress syndrome. Overuse injuries cause tibial stress syndrome and is the most common type of shin splints. Medial tibial stress syndrome, on the other hand, is caused by biomechanical issues and is less common.

The Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints are often caused by repetitive stress on the shin bone and surrounding muscles. This can happen when you increase your level of physical activity too quickly, or if you have flat feet or high arches. Other causes of shin splints include:

  • Overuse injuries
  • Biomechanical issues
  • Bone stress

Diagnosis of Shin Splints – How It Is Diagnosed?

Shin splints are typically diagnosed through physical examination and medical history analysis. A sports medicine professional or an orthopedist usually carries out this process. The doctor will look for signs of tenderness, swelling, and pain in the affected area.

The Role of Imaging in Diagnosis

If the physician suspects it, they may order imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. Common imaging techniques used in the diagnosis of shin splints include:

  • Musculoskeletal imaging: Imaging includes X-rays and ultrasounds, which can help identify stress fractures and other bone abnormalities.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI scans can identify soft tissue injuries that might not be visible on X-rays, such as muscle tears.
  • Graded Exercise Programs: This involves monitoring the patient’s pain level during exercise to determine the severity of the condition.

The Importance of Gait Analysis

Gait analysis is another important component of diagnosing shin splints. Sports medicine professionals use gait analysis to identify biomechanical issues that might contribute to the condition. They may also recommend the use of orthotics or other supportive devices to improve the patient’s gait and reduce the risk of injury.

The Importance of Seeking Professional Treatment

If you suspect you may have shin splints, it’s important to seek medical attention from a sports medicine professional or an orthopedist. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend an appropriate treatment plan, including physical therapy, anti-inflammatory treatment, or cryotherapy. Failing to seek treatment can result in long-term complications, such as chronic pain or permanent damage to the affected area.

Treatment Options for Shin Splints

Treatment Options for Shin Splints
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If you are suffering from this ailment, several different treatment options may help to alleviate your symptoms and promote healing. Here are some of the most effective treatment options:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a commonly recommended treatment for shin splints, as it can help to strengthen the muscles in your lower legs and improve your overall biomechanics. Your physical therapist may also use techniques such as massage or stretching to help reduce pain and inflammation.

Anti-Inflammatory Treatment

If your affliction is caused by inflammation, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce pain and swelling. This can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, or topical treatments such as gels or creams.


Cold therapy, such as ice packs or cold compresses, can also effectively reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area. Applying ice to the shin for 20-30 minutes a few times a day may help to relieve symptoms.


Wearing the right shoes can also help to prevent and manage these splints. Look for well-cushioned shoes that provide good support, particularly around the arch of your foot. Consider consulting with a specialist to get advice on what type of shoe would be best for you.

Exercise Modifications

If your shin splints are caused by overuse or repetitive stress, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend modifying your exercise routine to reduce the strain on your legs. This could include reducing the intensity or duration of your workouts, or incorporating low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling into your routine.

Strength and Conditioning Exercises

Strengthening exercises can help to improve the flexibility and stability of the muscles in your lower legs, which can help to prevent shin splints from recurring. This could include exercises such as calf raises or leg presses.

Compression Bandages

Compression bandages can help to reduce swelling and improve blood flow to the affected area. If you are using a compression bandage, ensure it is not too tight, as this can cause further damage to the muscles and tissues in your legs.

By considering these treatment options and working with a qualified healthcare professional, you can find relief from the pain of shin splints and prevent them from recurring.

Prevention of Shin Splints – Steps to Take

Shin splints are a common condition, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing them. Here are some tips to help prevent shin splints:

  • Proper footwear: Wearing the right shoes for your activity can help reduce the stress on your shins. Make sure your shoes fit well and provide adequate support for your feet.
  • Gradual increase in intensity: Avoid sudden increases in intensity, duration, or frequency of your workout routine. Gradually increase your mileage or speed to give your body time to adjust.
  • Stretching and flexibility training: Incorporate stretching and flexibility exercises that target your calf and shin muscles into your routine. This can help improve your range of motion and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Proper biomechanics: Work with a professional to improve your running form and biomechanics. This can help reduce the stress on your shins and prevent injuries.
  • Rest and recovery: Allow time for rest and recovery between workouts. This can help prevent overuse injuries and reduce the risk of developing shin splints.

Taping Techniques

Taping your shins can help provide extra support and reduce stress on your legs. A sports medicine professional can show you how to apply tape properly to prevent shin splints.

Cryotherapy and Ice Therapy

Prevention of Shin Splints
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Cryotherapy and ice therapy can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain in your shins. Apply an ice pack to your shins for 15-20 minutes after working out to help prevent shin splints.

Flexibility Training

Improving your flexibility can help reduce the risk. Incorporate exercises such as calf raises, ankle rotations, and toe touches into your routine to help keep your shins flexible and strong.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shin Splints

How do I get rid of my shin splints?

To get rid of shin splints, you should follow these steps:

  1. Rest: Avoid activities that worsen the pain and allow your shins time to heal.
  2. Ice: Apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation.
  3. Stretching: Perform gentle calf and shin stretches to improve flexibility and reduce tightness.
  4. Strengthening: Engage in exercises that target the muscles around the shin to improve support.
  5. Proper footwear: Wear well-fitted shoes with good shock absorption and arch support.
  6. Orthotics: Consider using orthotic inserts to support your feet’s arches and reduce strain.
  7. Gradual return to activity: Resume activities gradually to avoid overloading your shins.
  8. Avoid hard surfaces: Run or exercise on softer surfaces to reduce impact on your shins.
  9. Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers may help manage pain and inflammation.
  10. Medical evaluation: If the pain persists, seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What exactly do shin splints feel like?

Shin splints often cause a dull, aching pain along the front or inside of the shin bone (tibia). The pain may feel like a tightness, throbbing, or tenderness, and it is usually noticeable during or after physical activity, particularly running or jumping. In some cases, the pain may be sharp or burning.

What triggers shin splints?

Shin splints are often triggered by overuse or repetitive stress on the lower leg, particularly during activities that involve running, jumping, or sudden changes in intensity or frequency. Other contributing factors can include inadequate warm-up, improper footwear, running on hard surfaces, muscle imbalances, and biomechanical issues.

How do you know if you have shin splints or not?

If you experience persistent pain along the front or inside of your shin bone during or after physical activity, especially running or jumping, you may have shin splints. The pain is typically dull and aching but can vary in intensity. To confirm the diagnosis, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional who can perform a physical examination, review your medical history, and potentially use imaging studies like X-rays or MRI scans to rule out other possible conditions and determine if shin splints are the cause of your discomfort.