Symptoms and Signs of Shin Splints

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2022

Doctor's Notes on Shin Splints

"Shin splints" (medically termed Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, or MTSS) describes a running-related injury that causes pain in the front of the lower leg along the shin bone (tibia). Pain from shin splints is usually caused by athletic-related activity that the participant is not physically prepared to perform.

The main symptom of shin splints is pain on the lower third of the shinbone or the tibial bone, furthest from the knee. There are four grades to the pain of shin splints:

  • during activity,
  • before and after activity, but not affecting performance,
  • before, during, and after athletic activity affecting performance, and
  • pain so severe that performance is impossible.

Other symptoms of shin splints include

  • a distinguishable lump or
  • gap felt on the lower third of the shinbone, or
  • a "crunchy" feeling on that spot caused by inflammation.

What is the treatment for shin splints?

Shin splints are treated at home (self-care) with three simple methods:

  • Rest – avoid activities that cause discomfort, swelling, and/or pain but stay active with low-impact exercise like swimming  
  • Ice – use ice packs wrapped in a towel for 15 – 20 minutes four times per day for several days after the initial injury 
  • Pain reduction (over-the-counter)

After the shin splint pain is gone (takes about 3-4 weeks), gradually start normal activities.

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.