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What is shin splints?

“Ship splints” is a term which is described as pain along the shin bone (tibia).  Shin bone is the large bone in the front of your lower leg. This condition is usually known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).

People who engage in moderate to heavy physical activity usually suffer ship splints. Chances to have shin splints can be developed if you participate in strenuous physical activities or stop-start sports such as tennis, racquetball, soccer, or basketball. In some cases, the pain of shin splints can be so intense that you must stop the activity.

Shin splints is a cumulative stress disorder. Your daily repeated activities will pound and stress on the bones, muscles, and joints of the lower legs. It prevents your body from being able to naturally repair and restore itself.

How common is shin splints?

Shin splints is a common complaint, especially among participants of running sports. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of shin splints?

The common symptoms of shin splints are:

  • A dull ache in the front part of the lower leg
  • Pain that develops during exercise
  • Pain on either side of the shin bone
  • Muscle pain
  • Pain along the inner part of the lower leg
  • Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the lower leg
  • Swelling in the lower leg (usually mild, if present)
  • Numbness and weakness in the feet

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor? 

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Severe pain in your shin after a fall or accident
  • A shin that feels hot
  • A shin that’s visibly inflamed
  • Swelling in your shin area that gets worse
  • Pain in your shins even when you’re resting

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above orhave any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes shin splints?

The pain is related with shin splints can be the results from excessive amounts of force on the shin bone and the tissues attaching the shin bone to the muscles surrounding it. The muscles will swell and increases the pressure against the bone by the excessive force, leading to pain and inflammation.

Stress reactions to bone fractures can be the reason of this disorder. The body can repair the cracks if it has enough time to rest. However, if the body doesn’t get time to rest, the tiny cracks can lead to a complete fracture or a stress fracture.

Additional causes of shin splints include:

  • an anatomical abnormality (such as flat foot syndrome)
  • muscle weakness in the thighs or buttocks
  • lack of flexibility
  • improper training techniques

Risk factors

What increases my risk for shin splints?

There are many risk factors for shin splints, such as:

  • You’re a runner, especially one beginning a running program
  • You suddenly increase the duration, frequency or intensity of exercise
  • You run on uneven terrain, such as hills, or hard surfaces, such as concrete
  • You’re in military training
  • You have flat feet or high arches

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is shin splints diagnosed?

  • Shin splints are usually diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam
  • X-ray or other imaging studies can help identify other possible causes for your pain, such as a stress fracture.

How is shin splints treated?

  • Rest your body
  • Ice your shin to ease pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain is gone.
  • Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. They should be used only occasionally unless your doctor says otherwise.
  • Use orthotics for your shoes
  • Do range-of-motion exercises
  • Use a neoprene sleeve to support and warm your leg
  • Go to physical therapy to identify and treat issues in your back or legs or running mechanics that may be causing shin splints

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remediesthat can help me manage shin splints?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with shin splints:

  • Analyze your movement. Your running technique will be analyzed by a formal video can help to identify movement patterns that can contribute to shin splints. In many cases, a slight change in your running can help decrease your risk.
  • Wearing shoes that fit well and offer good support using shock-absorbing insoles
  • Avoiding exercise on hard or slanted surfaces or uneven terrain
  • Increasing exercise intensity gradually
  • Warming up before exercising
  • Making sure to stretch properly
  • Engaging in strength training, specifically toe exercises that build calf muscles
  • Not attempting to exercise through the pain
  • Barefoot running
  • Add strength training to your workout. You can prepare your legs to deal with high-impact sports by doing exercises to strengthen and stabilize your legs, ankles, hips and core.
  • Consider arch supports. Arch supports can help prevent the pain of shin splints, especially if you have flat arches.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: September 5, 2017 | Last Modified: September 5, 2017

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