Shin Splints: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Shin splints are common in runners.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common sports related injury. Shin splints are a result of chronic inflammation caused by repetitive movement and stress to the tibia (shin bone). When overworked, the tendons, muscles, and bone tissue of the shin can sustain tiny tears, irritation, and inflammation. Most common in runners, dancers, young athletes, and military recruits, shin splints can be very painful and debilitating. 


Symptoms of shin splints can include sharp or dull pain along the inner-front of the lower leg. Pain can occur during or after exercise. Pain can be aggravated by touching the shin area. If left untreated, pain will likely grow more constant and chronic, and can even result in a stress fracture.


Shin splints are usually caused by rapidly changing the frequency or length of your physical activity. Quickly increasing your mileage, changing the terrain you run on, or working out with a sudden burst in intensity can trigger shin splints. This is why shin splints are very common in high school athletes and military recruits who go from low fitness to intense physical activity very quickly. 

Shin splints can also be caused by having irregular arches or flat feet. Furthermore, wearing improper or worn-out sneakers can also cause shin splints. 

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suspect that you may be suffering from shin splints, the first thing to do is to rest and regularly ice the area of pain. If this doesn’t help, seek medical advice. To diagnose the injury, your doctor will likely examine your leg, gait, and previous medical history. They may also order a medical imaging test, such as an X-ray or MRI to rule out other similar conditions, such as a stress fracture. 

Following diagnosis, your doctor will advise you on how to properly recover. Although they are painful and frustrating, shin splints are not a serious injury and will typically go away if you rest and ice. You may also be advised to take pain relieving medicine (NSAIDs) or go to a physical therapist. 


Preventing shin splints begins with proper training and awareness. Runners should be well-aware of good training practices, such as following the 10% rule of increasing mileage, always warming up before runs, stretching regularly, mixing up the type of runs (recovery day, intervals, sprints, long run, etc), and taking weekly rest days. Runners should be aware of symptoms of shin splints in order to catch the problem early on; The sooner your shin splints are addressed, the easier it is to resolve the injury.

Investing in good shoes is also vital to prevent shin splints. Regularly getting new shoes, wearing the right shoes for your sport, and even purchasing supportive insoles can help prevent shin splints. 

If you or a loved one has sustained a sports-related injury in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, board certified sports medicine physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help. Orthopaedic Specialists is currently accepting new patients, and same day/telemedicine appointments are also available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment today, call 502-212-2663.