Shin splints, though a commonly used term, is not a clinically defined medical diagnosis 1. The term generally refers to pain that occurs in the shins. The shin bone is known as the tibia, and is the second largest bone in the body, after the femur in the upper leg. The main symptom of shin splints is pain which can occur is several places, including the inside of the tibia, or the medial tibia; or along the outside of the tibia, or the lateral tibia 1.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The primary symptom of lateral tibial shin splints is pain along the outside edge of the tibia 1. The pain can occur anywhere along the length of the tibia, from the top near the knee to the bottom of the bone near the ankle, although shin splints most commonly occur in the lower part of the leg, according to Rice University's SportsMedWeb 12. The pain is usually caused by inflammation of the tendons, muscles or fascia, the thin layer of tissue that covers the tibia, explains MedlinePlus 1.
Increase in Pain
Why Do My Shins Hurt the Day After Running?
Shin splints occur most often in runners, reports the National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoloskeletal and Skin Diseases 13. The pain often first develops when a person begins a new exercise routine or increases the intensity of his routine. Many runners report that the pain starts at the beginning of the run, then disappears after awhile, only to return after the run stops, sometimes the next day, notes SportsMedWeb. Beginning other types of activities, such as military training or aerobic dancing, may also trigger shin splints, according to MedlinePlus 1.
Certain factors or behaviors can increase the risk of shin splints 1. A common cause of lateral tibial shin splints is over-training, particularly not leaving enough recovery time between workouts, explains the National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoloskeletal and Skin Diseases 13. Improperly warming up or stretching can lead to irritation of the muscles or tendons in the lower legs, as can an improper running technique. Running on hard surfaces also increases the risk of shin splints 1. Runners with a very flat arch in the foot, also known as an overpronated arch, tend to develop shin splints more often 1. Running shoes that do not have enough arch support further increase the risk of shin splints 1.
Why Do My Shins Hurt the Day After Running?
Fibroids & Leg Pain
Diseases That Cause Calf Muscle Pain
What Are the Symptoms of Stress Fractures & Shin Splints?
Causes of Bilateral Lower Leg Pain
Calf Muscle Pain During & After Running
Suprapubic Pain While Running
Shin Stretches for Runners
Kidner Procedure Rehab Protocols
Healing Time for Shin Splints
- MedlinePlus: Shin Splints
- Rice University SportsMedWeb: Shin Splints
- National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoloskeletal and Skin Diseases: Sports Injuries
- Texas Christian University Athletic Training: Lower Leg Injuries
- Winkelmann ZK, Anderson D, Games KE, Eberman LE. Risk factors for medial tibial stress syndrome in active individuals: An evidence-based review. J Athl Train. 2016;51(12):1049-1052. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-51.12.13
- Pietrzak M. Diagnosis and management of acute medial tibial stress syndrome in a 15 year old female surf life-saving competitor. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014;9(4):525–539.
- Galbraith RM, Lavallee ME. Medial tibial stress syndrome: Conservative treatment options. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2009;2(3):127-133. doi:10.1007/s12178-009-9055-6
- Reinking MF. Exercise related leg pain (ERLP): A review of the literature. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2007;2(3):170-180.
- Nielsen RO, Buist I, Sørensen H, Lind M, Rasmussen S. Training errors and running related injuries: A systematic review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(1):58–75.
- Alaia MJ, Fischer SJ. Shin Splints. OrthoInfo. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Reviewed August 2019.
- Ma CB, Zieve D, Conaway B. Shin Splints - Self Care. MedlinePlus NIH. Reviewed November 5, 2018.
- Moen MH, Tol JL, Weir A, Steunebrink M, De Winter TC. Medial tibial stress syndrome: A critical review. Sports Med. 2009;39(7):523-46. doi:10.2165/00007256-200939070-00002
- Reshef N, Guelich DR. Medial tibial stress syndrome. Clin Sports Med. 2012;31(2):273-90. doi:10.1016/j.csm.2011.09.008
Matthew Busse has pursued professional health and science writing since 2007, writing for national publications including "Science Magazine," "New Scientist" and "The Scientist." Busse holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-San Diego.