Shin splints

Shin splints is a general term used to describe pain along your shin bone (tibia) that usually develops or gets worse when you exercise. It's a common sporting injury, particularly if you’re a runner or dancer. Your shin bone (tibia) is at the front of your lower leg. It’s the largest of the bones that run from your knee to your ankle.

The main symptoms of shin splints are tenderness and an aching pain along the front of your lower leg. The pain usually happens when you’re exercising and may become worse the longer you exercise. Some people find that the pain stops when they stop exercising, only to come back a few hours later. If your shin splints are severe, you may have pain when you’re resting. Sometimes you may also have mild swelling around the area that hurts.


There are several things you can do to self-treat shin splints. The main ones are listed below.

  • Stop doing the activity that caused your shin splints and rest for a few weeks. If you have stress fractures, these can take up to 12 weeks to heal properly.
  • If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Try cold ice packs to help relieve any pain. Wrap your ice pack in a towel – don’t apply it directly onto your skin. Hold it in place for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Check your trainers or sports shoes to make sure they are giving your feet enough support and cushioning. Orthotic insoles for your shoes may also help to improve the way you run.
  • Changing your running style may help. Try taking quicker, smaller steps when you run.

If these treatments don’t work, you may find that a physiotherapist can help, by using a range of different treatments to help your recovery, including massage and stretching exercises. Usually, surgery isn’t required for shin splints. However, in severe cases, an operation called a fasciotomy may be required to relieve the pressure on the muscles in the lower leg.

If you would like more information on this condition and its treatment, please call us.