How to Tell if You Have Shin Splints

Knee injury
Learn what the symptoms of shin splints are before you get sidelined. (Image: shakzu/iStock/Getty Images)

Shin splints are a common lower-leg injury that beginning and experienced athletes in all kinds of sports may develop at some point. While runners are prone to developing shin splints, anyone who does a lot of repetitive movement in the lower legs can develop them. Knowing how to determine if you have shin splints can help you treat the injury correctly and get back to doing the activities you enjoy.

Determining if You Have Shin Splints

Step 1

Determine the type of pain that is present in the lower leg. Shin splint pain can be a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain. It can occur in one or both legs and the pain can run along the entire length of the shin. Medial shin splints have pain that can be felt at the inner edge of the shin bone, or tibia, where it meets the calf muscle. Anterior shin splints are felt on the front outside part of the shin, and the pain may spread into the ankle and foot.

Step 2

Monitor your pain as you exercise. Pain from shin splints will develop as exercise continues. If you do not feel pain in your shins at the beginning of your exercise but do so as you continue to exercise, you may have shin splints. The pain may also continue into the day following the exercise.

Step 3

Feel your shins to pin-point your pain. Pain that is specific to a point along the tibia bone may be a sign of a stress fracture. The pain can be felt when you press on the tibia as well as when you are standing. If you suspect you have a stress fracture, you should see your physician for confirmation. New stress fractures that are only 2 to 3 weeks old do not typically show up on an X-ray and will require a bone scan or MRI for diagnosis.

Tip

If you have shin splints, ease the pain by icing the area several times a day until the pain is gone. Reduce or rest from exercise until you have been pain free for at least two weeks. Stretching your shins before and after exercise can also ease the pain. If these techniques have not reduced your shin splint pain, talk with your doctor about other forms of treatment.

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