Your tibia, also known as the shin bone, is a long bone found between the ankle and the kneecap. It plays a very important role in your posture, movement and everyday activities because it carries the brunt of your body’s weight.1
The fibula, which is a second, thinner shin bone that acts as support for the tibia, can be found on your lower leg as well. It runs parallel to the tibia and mainly functions as a point of anchor where the calf muscles are attached.2 If pain develops in this entire area, you may have a condition known as shin splints.
The Causes of and Risk Factors for Shin Splints
Shin splints are mainly caused by overuse and constant strain on your legs. As a result, pain develops in certain tissues or muscles in your shin bone. The condition is common among athletes, especially those who specialize in running. It’s estimated that shin splints account for 13 to 17 percent of all running-related injuries, making them a common occurrence.3
Other factors that influence the development of this condition include a sudden increase in physical activity, particularly in those who are beginners in a sport. Running on hard surfaces can take a toll on your legs as well, along with wearing old shoes.4
To determine the cause of your shin splints, your doctor will need to diagnose your affected leg and review your medical history. Imaging scans may be needed to find out if the condition has other causes, such as a fracture.5
The Pain in Your Shin Can Be Caused by Something Else
Shin splints are not the only condition that can cause pain in your shin. Other conditions that can cause shin pain include:
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): This condition is similar to coronary heart disease, wherein plaque builds up in your arteries, only this time, your legs, not the heart, are affected. Aside from pain, you may experience cramping, leg weakness and wounds in the skin that won’t heal.6
- Stress fractures: These are small cracks in the shin bone that can cause swelling and pain in a focused area.7
- Tendonitis: An inflammation of your tendons, tendonitis can develop in your Achilles tendon, causing pain in the surrounding tissues of the joint, including your shin.8
- Sprain: A sprain is basically a torn ligament, and causes pain and swelling when you try to move your ankle.9
This Guide Will Help You Learn All About Shin Splints
Shin splints can recur, and if they are not treated right away, it may affect your quality of life. This guide will help you learn all about shin splints, including which parts of your shin are affected, how to treat the symptoms and how to prevent the pain from returning.