Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)

Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)


Medial tibial stress syndrome, known as shin splints, is an overload injury occurring when too much force is being placed on the tibia (shinbone) and connective tissues attaching the muscles to the bone. Excessive tightness in the lower leg muscles will be further aggravating.


Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is caused by repetitive micro-trauma from sudden stops and starts, such as occurs when playing basketball, soccer or tennis. Shin splints are also very common in runners. Risk factors include lower leg muscle weakness, use of improper shoes, poor biomechanics and training errors.


Shin splints cause pain along or just behind the tibia. In the early stages, pain is only felt with activity, but eventually, continuous pain may be felt. Initial symptoms include tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner part of your lower leg and mild swelling in your lower leg. Consult a physician if:

  • Swelling becomes worse, or shin is hot and inflamed
  • Shin pain persists during rest
  • Onset of shin pain was associated with a fall or accident

Most people successfully treat shin splints with self-care.

  • Rest and modify activity: Avoid activities that cause pain or swelling and cross train with a lower impact activity.
  • Ice and elevate: Use ice packs or ice massage frequently (4 or more times a day) for several days
  • Use over-the-counter pain medication as needed.
  • Use the right footwear (shoes and arch supports, if needed).

Resume usual activities gradually. If pain persists, X-ray or other imaging studies may be used to rule out other causes, such as a stress fracture.