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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

3 Common Causes of Shin Pain

The long leg bone that sits at the front of the leg and below the knee is your tibia, more commonly referred to as the shin bone. This section of your lower leg absorbs a majority of force during your day-to-day movements.

Pain in this region can be a symptom of overuse or a warning sign of a more serious orthopaedic condition.

1. Shin Splints: Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

Shin splints, medial tibial stress syndrome, is a term that refers to lower leg pain when the muscles and skin around the tibia become irritated and inflamed. It is common among athletes, especially those whose sports involve running and jumping. This condition is typically the result of overuse or a rapid increase in training.

Symptoms of shin splints include:

  • Pain

  • Tenderness

  • Swelling

  • Bumps forming along the bone

  • Redness around the shin

Usually, these symptoms only occur during periods of exercise and stop while at rest. However, if left untreated, the pain can worsen and process to the point where it occurs during periods of rest.

Shin splints are fairly easy to treat. Your physician may recommend the following methods for reducing inflammation:

  • Rest

  • Ice

  • Anti-Inflammatory medications

  • Activity modification

Untreated shin splints have been known to lead to more severe conditions, such as stress fractures.

2. Stress Fracture

Stress fractures are another overuse injury that can develop in running athletes. However, this type of trauma to the tibia is much more serious than shin splints.

Tibial stress fractures are hairline cracks or bruising in the bone. They are difficult to diagnose because the small cracks on the bone aren’t always apparent on imaging tests, but symptoms include:

  • Tenderness

  • Aching

  • Swelling

  • Pain

As with shin splints, stress fracture symptoms start gradually, with activity, before worsening to the point where everyday activities are painful.

A physical exam is often needed to diagnose the severity and location of the stress fracture. Dr. Joseph and his team will:

  1. Ask you about your symptoms, they began, and how they developed

  2. Take the time to understand your lifestyle

  3. Check the tibia for swelling and tenderness

  4. Manipulate the lower leg to see if range of motion is impacted

Although the majority of stress fractures heal nonsurgically, untreated stress fractures can turn into complete fractures of the Tibia.

3. Tibia Fracture

Unfortunately, the tibia is the most commonly fractured long bone in the body. Dr. Joseph usually sees these manifest as proximal tibia fractures, which is the section of the bone right below the knee.

There are several different types of tibial fractures, including:

  1. Stable: A single, clean break along the bone that does not impact the alignment of the leg.

  2. Displaced: A break that misaligned the bone.

  3. Comminuted: When the bone breaks into three or more pieces.

  4. Open: The broken bone pierces through the skin, sometimes damaging the tissue, tendons, and ligaments in the area.

  5. Intra-articular: When the fracture causes a separation in the knee joint.

Whether or not a tibial fracture requires surgery depends on its severity. Sometimes immobilizing the lower leg in a cast is enough to hold the bone in place while it heals. However, all tibia fractures must be treated professionally by an orthopaedic physician. Failure to do so could result in arthritis, instability, and loss of mobility.

Chronic Shin Pain? Contact Dr. Joseph Today!

Dr. Joseph is an orthopaedic physician who specializes in tibial injuries. Seeing patients in three convenient locations. Dr. Joseph is known through Summit and Eagle County for expertly and compassionately treating his patients.

If you are experiencing chronic shin pain, contact our offices at (970) 476-7220 or use our online appointment form to request a consultation.

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