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Shin pain is experienced on the front of the lower leg, below the knee and above the ankle. It can hurt directly over the shinbone (tibia) or over the muscles that are on the inner or outer side of the tibia. Shin pain is often referred to as shin splints, but not all shin pain is necessarily caused by shin splints.
The pain may come from irritation of the muscles and the tissues that connect the muscles to bone, from a stress reaction/fracture or from increased pressure around the muscles in the lower leg. The following are different types of shin conditions.
The most common cause of all of these conditions in young athletes is being overactive. These shin conditions are most frequently seen in runners who increase their mileage or intensity of running, or change the surface on which they are running.
Other contributing factors include tight muscles in the lower leg and ankle, failure to warm-up properly before physical activity, improper shoe wear, cigarette smoking and use of certain medications.
Keys to prevention include gradual return to activities/sports, proper shoe wear, proper stretching and warm-up before play, running on softer surfaces, recognizing symptoms and stopping activity if pain comes back.
Symptoms include pain over the front, inner or outer parts of your lower leg. Pain may occur during exercise, at rest or both.
If there is concern about a stress fracture, x-rays may be taken. However, not all stress fractures will show up on x-ray, so if there is enough concern for a stress fracture, magnetic resource imaging (MRI) or a bone scan may be ordered. Learn more about common tests at the Orthopedics Institute.
If your child’s doctor thinks your child may have compartment syndrome, a test that measures the pressure in the lower leg compartments might be done. This is done using a needle attached to a measuring device. This test will be done at rest and then again after exercise.
Treatment for shin pain or shin splints could include the following:
All kids and young athletes recover from an injury at a different rate, and return to activities is determined by how each particular child’s leg recovers. In general, the longer symptoms are present before treatment is started, the longer it will take to get better.
The goal of rehabilitation at our Sports Medicine Program for Young Athletes is to get your child back to normal activities as soon as it’s safely possible.
Pain Management, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine