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Shin pain

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Your shin is the area over the tibia bone. This is the area between the knee and the ankle at the front of the leg. Shin pain is caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, or bone over the shin area. 

Causes of shin pain

There are not many conditions that can cause pain in this area. The most common cause of this is called shin splints. Shin splints occur when you exercise and can cause a throbbing pain that is painful but not serious.

Other causes of shin pain range from minor bruising, inflammation, or fractures (break in the bone) from a fall, injury, or trauma. Overuse of muscles can lead to stress, which is where pressure on the bone causes tiny fractures.

Very rare causes of persistent shin pain can be bone tumors (cancerous and non-cancerous forms). These typically occur in younger people and children.

A bone disease called Paget's disease can affect the shin bone as well as other areas of the body such as the spine, pelvis, or upper thigh bone (femur). Paget's disease causes a process in which new bone formation leads to weakened, brittle bones that are more likely to fracture and bend.

What increases my risk of developing shin pain?

Lifestyle factors increase your risk of developing shin pain, such as excessive drinking, or smoking. Excessive physical activity, running or bounding on hard surfaces, being flat-footed, or having low vitamin D can all increase your risk. Age and genetics are risk factors that you cannot adjust for that may also put you at more risk.

When should I see my doctor?

Most causes of shin pain are not serious and tend to get better with time on their own. If you sustained an acute injury and there is the possibility of a fracture, you should attend your nearest emergency department as soon as possible. If you find your symptoms are persisting more than a few weeks or the pain is worsening, it is worthwhile speaking to your doctor who may refer you to a physiotherapist for more input or order more tests and investigations if they are concerned.

Can I prevent shin pain?

If your shin pain is caused by lifestyle factors, it is possible to reduce the risk of developing them. This can be done by giving up smoking or reducing the amount you drink and ensuring that you have adequate Vitamin D through diet and supplements.

When you are exercising, you must have the correct supportive sportswear. Shock-absorbing shoes, shin pads, and insoles are all effective measures to provide more support. It would help if you increased your exercise levels gradually instead of doing a sudden intense activity, as this would put you more at risk of developing symptoms.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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