Shin splints is a general term used to describe pain along your shin bone (tibia) that usually develops or gets worse with exercise. It's a common sporting injury, particularly among runners and dancers.
Your shin bone (tibia) is at the front of your lower leg. It’s the largest of the bones that run from your knee to your ankle.
Shin splints is a general term used to describe any condition that causes pain and tenderness down the middle, or just inside the inner edge, of your shin.
Shin splints usually develop when you’re exercising and often get worse the longer you exercise. The condition usually develops in people who do repetitive activities and sports that put a lot of stress on the lower legs, such as running, jumping or dancing.
The main symptoms of shin splints are tenderness and an aching pain along the front of your lower leg. The pain usually happens when you’re exercising and may become worse the longer you’re exercising. Some people find that the pain stops when they stop exercising, only to come back a few hours later. If your shin splints are severe you may have pain when you’re resting.
There are a number of different causes of shin splints. The main ones are listed below.
All of these conditions can develop when you put too much stress and strain on your shin bone. This happens when there is repeated impact on the bone when you’re playing sports or doing activities where you’re running and jumping.
You're more at risk of developing shin splints if:
If you have shin pain, see your GP, a chartered physiotherapist (health professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility), or a sport and exercise medicine doctor. He or she will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Your GP, physiotherapist or doctor may also ask you about your medical history. There is usually a clear link between pain in your shin and a sport or activity that you do.
Your GP, physiotherapist or doctor may recommend that you have a scan or X-ray to look at your shin in detail. These tests are often done to rule out other conditions that may affect your shins, such as large stress fractures. The tests you may have are listed below.
There are many things that you can do at home to treat shin splints. The main ones are listed below.
Your physiotherapist can develop a training programme to gradually increase your activity and help you return to your usual sports activities. He or she may use a range of different treatments to help your recovery, including massage and stretching exercises.
If your shin splints are caused by compartment syndrome and your pain is severe, your doctor may suggest an operation called a fasciotomy. This releases the pressure on the muscles in your lower leg. Talk to your GP or physiotherapist for more information. Occasionally a stress fracture may need an operation help it heal.
You can help reduce your risk of developing shin splints by doing the following.
Produced by Rebecca Canvin, Bupa Health Information Team, June 2012.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
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