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Shin Splint Pain, Part 1

          Shin splints, a.k.a., medial tibial stress syndrome is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the tibia. Pain typically occurs along the inner border of the tibia, where muscles attach to the bone.


This week, we will explore a common complaint of many athletes and those just starting a new exercise program; shin splints.


Shin splints are a common exercise-related problem. The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). Shin splints typically develop after physical activity. They are o­ften associated with running. Any vigorous sports activity can bring on shin splints, especially if you are just starting a fitness program.


Shin splints usually develop when the muscle and bone tissue (periosteum) in the leg become overworked by repetitive activity.

Shin splints o­ften occur after sudden changes in physical activity. These can be changes in frequency, such as increasing the number of days you exercise each week. Changes in duration and intensity, such as running longer distances or on hills, can also cause shin splints.

Other factors that contribute to shin splints include:

  • Having flat feet or abnormally rigid arches

  • Exercising with improper or worn-out footwear

Runners are at highest risk for developing shin splints. Dancers and military recruits are two other groups frequently diagnosed with the condition.



The most common symptom of shin splints is pain along the border of the tibia. Mild swelling in the area may also occur.

Shin splint pain may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sharp and razor-like or dull and throbbing

  • Occur both during and a­ er exercise

  • Be aggravated by touching the sore spot


Medical Examination and Diagnosis

A­fter discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will examine your lower leg. An accurate diagnosis is very important. Sometimes, other problems may exist that can have an impact on healing.

Your doctor may order additional imaging tests to rule out other shin problems. Several conditions can cause shin pain, including stress fractures, tendinitis, and chronic exertional compartment syndrome.

  • Stress Fracture. If your shin splints are not responsive to treatment, your doctor may want to make sure you do not have a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a small crack(s) in the tibia caused by stress and overuse.

Imaging tests that create pictures of anatomy help to diagnose conditions. A bone scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study will o­ften show stress fractures in the tibia.

  • Tendinitis. Tendons attach muscles to bones. Tendinitis occurs when tendons become inflamed. This can be painful like shin splints, especially if there is a partial tear of the involved tendon. An MRI can help diagnose tendinitis.

  • Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. An uncommon condition called chronic exertional compartment syndrome causes symptoms like shin splints. Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels. In chronic exertional compartment syndrome, this is brought on by exercise. Pain usually resolves soon a­fter the activity stops.

The tests used to diagnose this condition involve measuring the pressure within the leg compartments before and a­fter exercise.


Next week, we will explore non-surgical treatments for shin pain.


If you are experiencing shin pain after exercise, don’t delay; go see the professionals at Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana where you will receive one-on-one care from an experienced physical therapist!