Conditions & Treatments

Shin Splints

Shin splints are pains at the front of the lower legs caused by exercise, often after a period of inactivity.

Shin Splints

What are shin splints?

Shin splints refers to pain and tenderness along or just behind the large bone in the lower leg (the tibia).

Shin splints, also called medial tibia stress syndrome, usually develop after rigorous exercise, sports, or repetitive activity. This repetitive activity can lead to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and thin layer of tissue covering the bone (the periosteum) of the tibia, causing pain.

What are the symptoms of shin splints?

The following are the most common symptoms of shin splints. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain felt on the front and outside of the shin. It's first felt when the heel touches the ground during running. Pain eventually becomes constant and the shin is painful to the touch.

  • Pain that starts on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle. Pain becomes worse when standing on the toes or rolling the ankle inward. As the shin splint progresses, the severity of pain will increase, leading to inflammation.

The symptoms of shin splints may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How are shin splints diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a shin splint usually is confirmed with a complete medical history and physical examination.

What is the treatment for shin splints?

Specific treatment for shin splints will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Type of shin splint

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies

  • Expectation for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

The best course of treatment for shin splints is to discontinue any activity that's causing the condition, until the injury is healed. Other treatment may include:

  • Stretching exercises

  • Strengthening exercises

  • Cold packs

  • Medication, such as ibuprofen

  • Running shoes with a rigid heel and special arch support

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Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

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