Key Points about Shin Splints

  • Shin splints are caused by running long distances, increasing athletic training, suddenly increasing the intensity of your training, or participating in sports such as downhill skiing that requires you to start or stop suddenly.
  • The main symptoms of shin splints is pain in the shin area that worsens with activity and improves with rest.
  • Most cases of shin splints can be treated with rest, ice, and other self-care measures. Wearing proper footwear and modifying your exercise routine can help prevent shin splints from recurring. In severe cases, you may need a surgery called a fasciotomy to relieve chronic shin splints that are not healing with conservative measures.
  • If you experience recurrent shin splints, you may be able to prevent future cases by evaluating if you are wearing proper footwear and by modifying the activities you are doing.


Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a condition that is characterized by pain in the front of the lower leg between the knee and the ankle. Repeated stress on the lower legs prevents the bones, muscles, and joints from being repaired.

Typically, shin splints affect active people who participate in sports such as running, tennis, soccer, or basketball. In some cases, the pain is so severe that you may have to stop performing the activity you are doing.

Shin splints causes

Shin splints generally occur from overuse or a sudden increase in athletic training. In most cases, it develops from doing repetitive activities that stress the bones, muscles, and joints in the lower legs.

Activities that may cause shin splints to include:

  • Running.
  • Increase in athletic training.
  • Increase the intensity of training.
  • Participating in an activity that requires you to start and stop suddenly.

Shin splints symptoms

The most common symptom of shin splints is pain or inflammation on the shin bone. As the condition worsens, the pain will become constant even when the person is not playing a sport. Early in the progression of the condition, the pain will get better with rest.

Shin splints complications

If left untreated, shin splints can worsen and lead to a stress fracture. Once you have shin splints one time, you are more likely to develop it again.

Shin splints risk factors

You are more likely to develop shin splints if you:

  • Wear shoes that are worn out.
  • Have mechanical issues such as flat feet or high arches.
  • Practice or play sports on a hard surface such as concrete or a hard basketball court.
  • Are not wearing the appropriate shoes for your sport or your body.
  • Lacking flexibility.
  • Running downhill, on a slanted service or uneven terrain.
  • Participating in sports that require sudden starts or stops.
  • Having tight muscles.

Runners, gymnasts, and dancers are at risk of developing shin splints during their careers.

Shin splints prevention

Shin splints can often be prevented by following these guidelines:

  • Stretch before running or exercising.
  • Work rest into your training schedule.
  • Cross-train.
  • Alternate exercises during practice.

Shin splints diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose shin splints. During a clinic visit, your doctor will take a full medical history, evaluate your symptoms, and when they begin and perform a physical examination. Your doctor may also order diagnostic cases such as an X-ray, MIR, or bone scan to determine if you have a more severe condition such as a stress fracture.

Shin splints treatment

The first step in treating shin splints is to avoid the activity, causing your pain to allow the area to heal. Pain typically resolves within a few days with limited movement.

Self-care measures to treat shin splints include:

  • Elevate your legs
  • Ice your shins to alleviate the swelling.
  • Take pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Wear compression stockings on your shins.
  • Use a foam roller on shins.

Surgery is only used if your shin splints are causing severe symptoms that have lasted more than three months. If you are a candidate for surgery, your doctor will perform a fasciotomy. During a fasciotomy, your doctor will make small cuts into the fascia surrounding the calf muscles.

When to Seek Care

You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if your pain does not subside even after conservative treatments such as ice, rest, and pain relievers or if your swelling is not going down.

Next Steps

Follow your doctor’s treatment and recovery instructions carefully to avoid complications.

If your symptoms are worsening or become severe, call your doctor right away.

Once your condition has improved, follow preventive measures such as stretching, cross-training, resting, and strengthening exercises into your daily routine.

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