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Shin Splints

Shin splints are caused by overuse, leading to pain and swelling in the shinbone. Running, foot arch issues, and bad shoes can make it worse. Learn more about the treatment options from UPMC.

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What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints — or medial tibial stress syndrome — are overuse injuries caused by repeated stress on the lower legs.

The tibia, the long bone in the front of your lower leg, becomes inflamed and painful.

What causes shin splints?

Running is a common cause of shin splints, especially if you increase your level of activity too quickly.

Some factors make certain people more prone to get shin splints.

These shin splint risk factors include:

  • Problems with the arch of your foot or flat feet.
  • Muscle imbalances in the lower leg.
  • Running on hard or inclined surfaces.
  • Inadequate shoes.

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What are The Symptoms of Shin Splints?

Shin splints may cause the following symptoms:

Pain in the tibia — the long bone in the front of your lower leg — before, during, or after activity.

Tenderness to the touch.

Pain along the shinbone, most often toward the middle.

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How Do You Diagnose Shin Splints?

To diagnose shin splints, your doctor will:

  • Perform a physical exam.
  • Take your medical history.
  • Talk about your activity level.

It's easy to confuse shin splints with stress fractures.

As a result, your doctor will assess your injury to rule out or diagnose a stress fracture before moving forward with a treatment plan for your shin splints.

Unless your doctor suspects a more serious issue or bone problem, you won't need any imaging or diagnostic tests.

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How Do You Treat Shin Splints?

At-home Shin Splint Treatment

You can treat shin splints at home with rest and ice massages along the tibia.

If you can't completely stop exercising while treating shin splints, try compression therapy or kinesiotape. These may help improve your body's inflammatory response and increase blood flow.

If problems with your foot shape are the cause of your shin splints, be sure to:

  • Wear proper running shoes with shock-absorbing insoles.
  • Change your shoes every 300 to 400 miles.
  • Follow a gradual running plan.

How do you prevent shin splints?

Strengthening the muscles of your lower leg can help prevent shin splints.

To help lessen the stress on your lower leg, try adding cross training to your work out.

Add in exercises that are easier on the joints, such as:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Strength training
  • Yoga

Other ways you can prevent shin splints include:

  • Slowly increasing the duration, frequency, and intensity of your running routine or workouts.
  • Wearing quality running shoes that fit well.
  • Stretching before and after exercise.

A sports medicine doctor or physical therapist can provide the best advice for preventing shin splints.

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