Dull Aches in the Shin

A dull ache in your shin is uncomfortable and may prevent you from performing well at work or school and can even keep you awake at night. Leg pain is a common symptom and complaint and can be caused by overuse injuries or a serious disease, according to the National Library of Medicine 1. Fortunately, a dull ache in your shin is usually from strenuous exercise and will go away on its own.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Leg pain can be the result of muscle cramps, injury, blockage of a blood vessel from atherosclerosis or a clot, infection or inflammation. Diseases like cellulitis, arthritis and gout can also cause leg pain. Nerve damage and varicose veins are also common culprits.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are an inflammatory reaction involving the connective tissue of the leg. They are the most common cause of exercise-induced leg pain, according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Dull aches in the shin, commonly known as shin splints, refer to pain around the large tibia bone -- typically referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome. Pain usually occurs after bouts of strenuous exercise or engaging in sports. Medial tibial stress syndrome is common in runners and people who participate in sports with sudden starts and stops, such as basketball or soccer.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment and prevention of dull aches in your shin will depend on the cause of your pain. You can treat shin splints at home with rest, ice, elevation and avoiding weight-bearing activities. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce pain and inflammation. Perform range of motion and gentle stretching exercises to ease discomfort. Gradually return to activity, beginning with low-impact exercises, like swimming. Wear appropriate athletic footwear. If an activity makes your shins ache, stop doing it immediately.


Your doctor can diagnose the cause of the dull aches in your shin. Tell your doctor about any previous injuries and strenuous activities, or if you have any other symptoms like the red skin of cellulitis or the swollen joints of arthritis and gout. Your doctor will ask you if the dull ache is in one shin or both, and how long you have had the pain. She may recommend further testing, such as:

  • an arteriogram to check blood flow to your legs
  • blood tests
  • bone scans or bone biopsies
  • MRI
  • X-rays if she feels the dull aches in your shin is from something other than an overuse injury like shin splints