Shin splints are somewhat of a generic term for pain in the tibia, or shin bone. Typically runners are most commonly affected, but it can occur in any repetitive impact sport. Other causes of leg pain are covered in the posts on chronic exertional compartment syndrome and stress fractures, so in discussing shin splints, we will focus specifically on medial tibial stress syndrome.

Signs and symptoms of shin splints

Athletes with this condition typically complain of leg pain along the medial side of the tibia. Usually the pain is more diffuse than the pain with a stress fracture, which is often painful in a smaller, more localized area (although not always true). Runners notice increasing pain with running as they increase their distances or duration with training. Occasionally the pain starts to affect daily activities.

Also read:
5 common running injuries
Running injuries: 5 problems that often slow runners down

Diagnosis of shin splints

Sports medicine physicians will examine the runner or painful athlete and usually find tenderness along the tibia over many centimeters. Signs of other problems such as calf tightness are most always absent. X-rays are usually normally, but physicians will order them to rule out stress fractures. Depending on the severity and duration of the symptoms, more advanced tests such as bone scans or MRI’s are ordered.

Runner with leg pain from shin splints

Treatment for shin splints

Treatment for medial tibial stress syndrome is usually nonsurgical. Rest from running, or even just modifying activity and switching to less impact exercise such as swimming, biking, or using an elliptical trainer, is often necessary. Ice and anti-inflammatory medications, often provide pain relief. Physical therapy for stretching exercises and modalities can be helpful. The key is prevention. Runners need to increase their training slowly. When increasing distance for an upcoming race or event, they need to increase no more than 10% per week to give their tibias time to recover from the increased stress.

Recommended Products and Resources
Click here to go to Dr. David Geier’s Amazon Influencer store!
Due to a large number of questions I have received over the years asking about products for health, injuries, performance, and other areas of sports, exercise, work and life, I have created an Amazon Influencer page. While this information and these products are not intended to treat any specific injury or illness you have, they are products I use personally, have used or have tried, or I have recommended to others. THE SITE MAY OFFER HEALTH, FITNESS, NUTRITIONAL AND OTHER SUCH INFORMATION, BUT SUCH INFORMATION IS DESIGNED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE CONTENT DOES NOT AND IS NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY MEDICAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. THE SITE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ACTIONS OR INACTION ON A USER’S PART BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT IS PRESENTED ON THE SITE. Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.