Home | Donate | Contact Us | Physicians | 1.888.STJOES1
St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

Back to Document

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).

What causes shin splints?

Shin splints most often occur after hard exercise, sports, or repetitive activity. This repetitive action can lead to inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and thin layer of tissue covering the shin bones, causing pain.

What are the symptoms of shin splints?

These are the most common symptoms of shin splints:

  • Pain felt on the front and outside of the shin. It's first felt when the heel touches the ground during running. In time, pain becomes constant and the shin is painful to the touch.
  • Pain that starts on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle. Pain gets worse when standing on the toes or rolling the ankle inward. As the shin splint progresses, pain will increase, leading to inflammation.

The symptoms of shin splints may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor health care provider for a diagnosis.

How are shin splints diagnosed?

Your doctor can most often diagnose shin splints by reviewing your medical history and doing a physical exam.

How are shin splints treated?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

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

  • Stretching exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Cold packs
  • Medication, such as ibuprofen
  • Running shoes with a stiff heel and special arch support

Can shin splints be prevented?

You may be able to prevent shin splints by wearing good fitting athletic shoes. Also, gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of a new exercise routine. It may also help to switch between high impact activities and low impact activities such as swimming or cycling.

Key points about shin splints

  • Shin splints refers to the pain and tenderness along or just behind the large bone in the lower leg.
  • They develop after hard exercise, sports, or repetitive activity.
  • Shin splints cause pain on the front or outside of the shins or on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle.
  • Treatment includes stopping the activity that causes the pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises may also help. You can also apply cold packs, take medications such as ibuprofen, and wear good fitting athletic shoes.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.