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Shin splints - self-care

Description

Shin splints occurs when you have pain in the front of your lower leg. The pain of shin splints is from the inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your shin. Shin splints are a common problem for runners, gymnasts, dancers, and military recruits. However, there are things you can do to heal from shin splints and prevent them from getting worse.

Alternative Names

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

Causes

Shin splints are an exercise problem. You get shin splints from overloading your leg muscles, tendons or shin bone.

Shin splints happen from overuse with too much activity or an increase in training. Most often, 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:

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

If you have severe shin splints, your legs may hurt even when you are not walking.

Decrease Your Activity

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.

Reduce Your Pain and Swelling

Things you can do to ease discomfort include:

Prevent Shin Splints When Exercise Again

To prevent shin splints from recurring:

When to Call the Doctor

Shin splints are most often not serious. Call your health care provider if:

Your provider may take an x-ray or perform other tests to make sure you do not have a stress fracture. You will also be checked to make sure you do not have another shin problem, such as tendonitis or compartment syndrome.

References

Marcussen B, Hogrefe C, Amendola A. Leg pain and exertional compartment syndromes. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 112.

Stretanski MF. Shin Splints. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 78.


Review Date: 11/27/2016
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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