Shin splints is when you have pain in the front of your lower leg. The pain of shin splints is from the swelling of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your shin.
Know that shin splints are a common problem for runners, gymnasts, dancers, and military recruits.
Learn what you can do to heal from shin splints and prevent them from getting worse. Know that untreated shin splits can turn into stress fractures that will keep you from activities even longer.
Shin splints is an exercise problem. You get shin splints from overloading your shin bone.
Shin splints happen from overuse with too much activity or a change in training. Usually the activity is high impact and repetitive exercise of your lower legs. This is why runners, dancers, and gymnasts often get shin splints. Common activities that cause shin splints are:
You are more at risk for shin splints if you:
If you have severe shin splints, your legs may hurt even when you are not walking.
Expect that you need at least 2 to 4 weeks of rest from your sport or exercise.
After 2 to 4 weeks, if the pain is gone, you can start your usual activities. Increase your activity level slowly. If the pain returns, stop exercising right away.
Know that shin splints can take 3 to 6 months to heal. Do not rush back into your sport or exercise. You could injure yourself again.
Shin splints are usually not serious. Call your health care provider if:
Your doctor may take an x-ray to make sure you don’t have a stress fracture. They also will check to make sure you don’t have another shin problem, such as tendonitis or compartment syndrome.
Lower leg pain - self-care; Pain - shins - self-care; Anterior tibial pain - self-care; Medial tibial stress syndrome - self-care; MTSS - self-care; Exercise-induced leg pain - self-care; Tibial periostitis - self-care; Posterior tibial shin splints - self-care
Carr K, Sevetson E, Aukerman D. Clinical inquiries. How can you help athletes prevent and treat shin splints? J Fam Pract. 2008;57:406-408.
Bederka B, Amendola A. Leg pain and exertional compartment syndromes. In: DeLee JC, Drez D, Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Saunders Elsevier;2009:chap 24.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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