How to Tell If You Have Shin Splints

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The main symptom of shin splints is a pain. The pain is often a dull ache along the shin or the front of the lower leg, usually restricted to the bottom half of the lower leg. When the shin splints are mild the pain may occur only when exercising or exerting a force onto the shin. Other times it may only be present after a workout or when resting. Often the pain is present at the start of the activity and then lessens during the course of the activity. As the shin splints become worse the pain typically becomes more constant and more severe.

Other Symptoms of Shin Splints

Another symptom of shin splints is that pain may occur or increase when the toes or the foot is bent downward and the ankle is flexed. You also may experience some tightness at and around your lower shin or a decrease in your flexibility from the shin through the ankle and foot due to inflammation in the area.

For general shin splints, the pain might be located along either side of the shin, behind it or in front of it, or within the muscles surrounding the shin. Slight swelling of the lower leg may be present as well. If the muscle swells significantly then it can compress the nerves in the lower leg and you may experience a tingling, numbness or weakness of the foot, much like the compression in Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Another symptom of shin splints is how the pain is relieved. Some relief of the pain may occur when the legs are elevated above the heart for a period of time. Relief may also occur if anti-inflammatory medication is used (such as ibuprofen) or ice or cold therapy is applied to the area. The shin may show some tenderness when touched. The area may also be warm to the touch or reddened. In some cases, the shin may have some bumps beneath the skin.

For true shin splints, the pain is focused along the lower part of the inner edge of the shin. Tightness is also common. Bumps on the shin below the skin may be prevalent. Some swelling and redness may be present as well. Pain, when the foot and/or toes are flexed downward, is a symptom of true shin splints as well.

An additional, non-musculoskeletal symptom may present itself on the soles of your shoes. If you have an uneven and excessive wearing of one part of your sole you may be overpronating or oversupinating. Look at the heels of your shoes. If there is an area of significant over wearing, coupled with pain in your shins then you may have shin splints.

Keeping Track

Since shin splints generally refer to a number of different injuries, it is important to keep track of your symptoms you are experiencing and the pain you are suffering from. To track your pains, use a visual analog pain scale noting times, durations, activities, and the severity of your pains. For other symptoms, keep note of when and how they occur and if they alleviate or go away.

By tracking your pain and symptoms, it will be easier for you or your doctor to diagnose the cause of your shin splints and treat them appropriately for the best recovery. General treatment is often the same for the host of different types of shin splints. If the condition is aggravated, a more direct treatment based on the underlying injury can prove helpful, especially if your shin splint is actually a stress fracture in disguise.

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Your Citation
Adams, Chris. "How to Tell If You Have Shin Splints." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Adams, Chris. (2021, February 16). How to Tell If You Have Shin Splints. Retrieved from Adams, Chris. "How to Tell If You Have Shin Splints." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 6, 2021).