What are the Most Common Shin Splint Symptoms?

D. Jeffress

Shin splints are the common name for medial tibial stress syndrome, a condition that occurs when the legs are overused or over-exerted. The most common shin splint symptoms include aches and tenderness along the inner sides of the shins, swelling, small bumps along the shin bones, and redness. Shin splint symptoms tend to be the worst during physical activity and often resolve nearly completely during rest. It is important to be able to recognize early symptoms so the appropriate steps can be taken to prevent serious injury and ensure a quick return to normal lifestyle activities.

Supportive shoe insoles can help to avoid shin splints.
Supportive shoe insoles can help to avoid shin splints.

A person may experience shin splint symptoms if he or she decides to drastically increase activity levels. People who start training for sporting events or races can develop shin pain because their legs are not used to such intense exercise. Muscles, tendons, cartilage, and bone tissue in the legs become irritated and inflamed. Symptoms are more likely to arise in people who have poor running technique, ill fitting shoes, or flat feet.

People may get shin splints from running.
People may get shin splints from running.

The most prevalent shin splint symptoms are pain, swelling, and tenderness during activity. The shins may feel as if they are burning or tingling while a person runs, and the front of the legs are often very tender to the touch. Throbbing sensations and pain that radiates through the feet and knees may be felt immediately after finishing a run. Swelling is usually mild and isolated to the front of the shins. Symptoms tend to lessen or even go away completely after sitting or lying in bed for a few hours.

Shin splint symptoms may also include redness and palpable lumps on the inner portions of the lower legs. Constant swelling and inflammation can transfer to the skin, causing irritation, discoloration, and sometimes itching and burning sensations. One or more hard bumps can often be felt on the inflamed shinbones that are usually more tender to the touch than surrounding areas.

In most cases, symptoms are fairly easy to resolve. Resting the legs for a few days is a very important element in recovery. Many people find that alternating between ice packs and heat wraps several times a day helps with pain and swelling. An individual can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs to ease lasting symptoms. When the legs start feeling better, a person may want to consider investing in more comfortable, supportive shoes and gradually returning to regular exercise levels.

People who start training intensively for sporting events or races can develop shin pain.
People who start training intensively for sporting events or races can develop shin pain.

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Discussion Comments


I used to get shin splints while running for exercise. My legs would be very tender to the touch, and I also had some lower back pain. A friend of mine was a more experienced runner, and he said I needed to work on my technique in order to avoid anterior and posterior shin splints in the future. I changed my running shoes and figured out how to run with a rocking motion, not hard landings on the balls of my feet.


The first time I experienced shin splints was during rehearsal for a choir show in high school. I wasn't much of a dancer to begin with, but I had to learn a few choreographed routines. What triggered the shin splint pain was a lot of jumping while standing on my toes. I told the choreographer about the intense pain in the front of my legs and she said it was shin splints. I'd never heard that term before.

I took some aspirins for a few days and stayed off my legs as much as possible. The pain did subside in time for the actual show, but I had to modify the steps so I didn't put so much weight on the front of my shins.

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