A shin splint is inflammation and pain along the inner part of the lower leg. It involves the tibia (shin bone).
Shin splints occur when the tissue that connects muscles to the lining of the tibia becomes irritated and inflamed.
Muscles of the Lower Leg
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A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for a shin splint include:
Symptoms of a shin splint include:
If you have the symptoms of shin splints, you may not need to see a doctor. If the injury does not respond to self-treatment (see Treatments below) after two to four weeks, see your doctor. You may have a more serious injury.
The doctor will examine your lower leg and look for areas of tenderness and swelling. In addition, the doctor will look for foot problems such as over-pronation. You may have an x-ray to check for a stress fracture , which has similar symptoms.
If you continue to have problems after you have initiated RICE therapy, ask your healthcare provider about alternating heat (15 minutes prior to exercise) and cold (15 minutes after exercise).
In addition to RICE therapy, you may take anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain.
If over-pronation is causing your shin splints, you can get custom-made arch supports, called orthotics, which help correct the over-pronation.
The following steps may help to prevent the development of a shin splint:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org . Accessed October 14, 2005.
Couture CJ and Karlson KA. Tibial stress injuries: decisive diagnosis and treatment of 'shin splints'. Phys Sportsmed . 2002 Jun;30(6):29.
Moen MH, Tol JL, Weir A, Steunebrink M, De Winter TC. Medial tibial stress syndrome: a critical review. Sports Med . 2009;39(7):523-546.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ . Accessed October 14, 2005.
Shin splints. DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamicmedical.com/dynamed.nsf . Accessed October 14, 2005.
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Yeung SS, Yeung EW, Gillespie LD. Interventions for preventing lower limb soft-tissue running injuries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2011;(7):CD001256.
Last reviewed September 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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