Shin Splints

Overview

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints cause pain along the bony front part of your lower leg (also known as the shinbone, or tibia). This condition happens when a group of muscles in the front or back of your leg is working harder than it should. As a result, those muscles – and the tendons that anchor them to your shinbone – become inflamed and cause pain.

Shin splints are a common running injury. If you don’t run but participate in other activities, you can still get shin splints – especially if you’re starting a new activity or increasing the intensity of your workout.

Expert care from Aurora Health Care can help you get rid of the pain that comes with shin splints. Our sports medicine experts often diagnose shin splints with a physical exam, and can help you feel better with special footwear and physical therapy. We’ll also help you make a gradual transition back to your favorite activities so you can avoid re-injury.

The Aurora Difference

Complete Care for Shin Splints

Our expertise in caring for active people means you can count on us to treat your shin splints so you can get back to your favorite activities.

Highlights of our program include:

  • The trust of local athletes: We are a trusted partner to Milwaukee’s top athletes. In fact, Aurora is the official sports medicine partner to a number of Division I teams, including those in Marquette University’s athletic program. We also serve professionals like the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team. Our orthopedic experts, primary care sports doctors, athletic trainers and physical therapists deliver that same high level of care to all the people we serve – whether they need treatment for shin splints, knee pain or other sports health-related issues. Find out more about team medical coverage.
  • Accurate diagnosis: We diagnose a large number of active people every single day. This has helped us build expertise that translates to a superior level of care. If you come to us with symptoms that might indicate shin splints, we will perform a detailed evaluation to rule out other possible conditions like stress fractures or other running injuries. We don’t stop until we get to the true source of your pain. Once we understand what’s causing your shin splints, we can offer the right treatment options to meet your unique needs.
  • Emphasis on preventing re-injury: Our sports performance programs can lower your risk of getting shin splints in the future. These programs include a personal running assessment and a six-week strength and conditioning program. Read more about our sports performance programs.

Symptoms

Signs of Shin Splints

If you have shin splints, you’ll probably experience pain along the long bone of the lower leg (tibia). The pain tends to be mild at first, then gets stronger and lasts longer as the injury worsens.

You may also experience:

  • Sensations ranging from a dull throbbing to sharp jolts of pain
  • Sensitivity to touch along the injured area
  • Pain that starts and stops with physical activity
  • Swelling

Diagnosis

Tests & Imaging for Shin Splints

A physical exam is usually all it takes for our sports medicine experts to diagnose shin splints.

During the exam, we:

  • Listen carefully as you describe the symptoms you’re experiencing and whether they change with activity.
  • Apply gentle pressure along the shinbone to pinpoint the affected area.
  • May ask you to hop on the foot of the injured leg. Doing so will let us know if your bones can bear the impact of your weight and help us rule out a stress fracture.

Find out more about orthopedic diagnosis.

Treatment

Treating Shin Splints

Simple treatments, like taking a week off or icing the injury, often provide immediate relief. Our sports medicine team also offers a broad range of treatments to prevent the pain from returning. Then, they’ll help you ease back into your favorite activities when the time is right.

Treatments for shin splints at Aurora include:

  • Compression: Applying gentle pressure (compression) by wrapping the injured area with a special bandage can help you stay comfortable and prevent additional swelling.
  • Physical therapy: We address muscle imbalances in different parts of your leg with the help of special exercises. Find out more about orthopedic physical therapy.
  • Running assessment: Our running experts examine the way your body moves while running on a treadmill. We pinpoint and correct motions that could lead to future injuries, including shin splints. We may also look at your running shoes to make sure they’re offering the level of support your feet need, in just the right places. Find out more about a performance running assessment.
  • Special footwear: Inserting an arch support in your shoe (orthotic) can relieve stress in the muscles of your lower leg and help you avoid shin splints. A custom foot orthotic is made to fit the unique shape of your foot. Find out more about custom foot orthotics.

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We offer sports injury care throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

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