Shin splints are somewhat of a generic term for pain in the tibia, or shin bone. Typically runners are most commonly affected, but it can occur in any repetitive impact sport. Other causes of leg pain are covered in the posts on chronic exertional compartment syndrome and stress fractures, so in discussing shin splints, we will focus specifically on medial tibial stress syndrome.
Athletes with this condition typically complain of leg pain along the medial side of the tibia. Usually the pain is more diffuse than the pain with a stress fracture, which is often painful in a smaller, more localized area (although not always true). Runners notice increasing pain with running as they increase their distances or duration with training. Occasionally the pain starts to affect daily activities. Tips for safe and effective conditioning programs.
Sports medicine physicians will examine the runner or painful athlete and usually find tenderness along the tibia over many centimeters. Signs of other problems such as calf tightness are most always absent. X-rays are usually normally, but physicians will order them to rule out stress fractures. Depending on the severity and duration of the symptoms, more advanced tests such as bone scans or MRI’s are ordered.
X-rays for leg pain in a runner?
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Treatment for medial tibial stress syndrome is usually nonsurgical. Rest from running, or even just modifying activity and switching to less impact exercise such as swimming, biking, or using an elliptical trainer, is often necessary. Ice and anti-inflammatory medications, often provide pain relief. Physical therapy for stretching exercises and modalities can be helpful. The key is prevention. Runners need to increase their training slowly. When increasing distance for an upcoming race or event, they need to increase no more than 10% per week to give their tibias time to recover from the increased stress.
If you have specific questions about shin splints, please Ask Dr. Geier directly.Other Leg, Ankle & Foot Injuries
Achilles Tendon Ruptures
Calcaneus Stress Fractures
Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome
Fifth Metatarsal Fracture (Jones fracture)
Flexor Hallucis Longus (FHL) Tendinitis
Lateral Ankle Instability
Metatarsal Stress Fracture
Navicular Stress Fractures
Osteochondral Lesions of the Talus
Peroneal Tendon Subluxation
Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)
Syndesmosis Injuries (“High Ankle Sprains”)
Tibial Stress Fractures