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What Are The Early Signs Of Shin Splints?

Shin splints1 is an informal way of referring to medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). You can develop shin splints, either on the anterior (front) region of the tibia or the posterior (the inside, back) part of the tibia. Mild shin splints start with minor discomfort that may ultimately lead to inflammation and soreness along the shin bone. Continued activity through this stage of symptoms may most likely cause swelling and deep pain. The pain may be experienced before, throughout or after the exercise extending to the following day. Sometimes, after training routines or exercises, the pain may cease, however, that does not imply that the pain will not reoccur. Ignoring the pain after subsiding is a bad idea since the pain eventually returns and may be continuous or progress into a stress fracture, where you feel pain in a localized area along your tibia.

What Are The Early Signs Of Shin Splints?

What Are The Early Signs Of Shin Splints?2

There are several early signs that may indicate that one has shin sprints. The most common early signs include the following:

In the early stages of the shin splints, one experiences vague, diffuse pain along the middle-distal tibia which tends to decrease with running.

Muscle Pain- shin sprints causes inflammation of the connective muscle referred to as tibial periosteum i.e. the membrane found on the inner or outer side of the shin bone. The inflammation results in pain and discomfort. The pain is also caused by recurring overuse of the muscles.

Pain In The Lower Leg- the pain can either be at the front, on either side of the shin bone or along the inner part of the leg. The pain may extend from the ankle to the kneecap and gets worse when one starts exercising, or on the day after the exercise. The shin splints pain is a consequence of an increase in the intensity of the activity being undertaken, that is, running, walking or dancing without giving the leg time to recover.

The Inner Part Of The Lower Leg Becomes Tender Or Sore – the affected area feels tender and sore when touched.

Swelling In The Lower Leg – excessive force exerted on the shin splints leg muscle causes the swelling. The swelling is usually mild and may stop when one stops exercising to give the leg time to heal.

Numbness And Weakness In The Feet- pain resulting from shin splints sometimes cause numbness in the affected leg. This happens when an immense amount of pressure is exerted to a nerve by bones, tendons or muscle. Such pressure is likely to disrupt the normal functions of the nerves, thus causing numbness and weakness.

Burning Feeling Of The Shin Bone During And After The Activity- exerting pressure on the affected shin splints muscle or tendon causes a burning sensation, for instance, tingling, a feeling like one is being pricked with needles, etc.

Tight Calf Muscles – the calf muscles become tight and painful. The tightness of the shin splints muscles can be cleared by massaging the calves and gently stretching before and after running.

Lumps Or Bumps Along The Bone- small lumps or bumps may develop near the shin bone.

Sometimes the skin around the painful areas may develop red patches.


At the beginning of a shin splint, the resulting pain may cease when exercising stops. However, if the condition deteriorates, the pain may become more constant and intense. Once the symptoms of shin splints have manifested themselves, the best thing one can do is take a rest and stop all the activities in order to promote quick recovery. It is also important to appreciate the fact that, although shin splints are not considered life-threatening, it is advisable, to have a healthcare provider check the pain, to ascertain the root cause and the best remedy for it. The early signs of shin splints help detect3 the condition early enough, so as to avoid any complications on the shin bone that could be grave.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 25, 2020

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