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Shin Splints: Care Instructions

The shin bone (tibia).


Shin splints cause pain in the shin, the front part of the lower leg. They can also cause swelling. The pain is most likely from repeated stress on the shin bone (tibia) and the tissue that connects the muscle to the tibia.

Shin splints are common in people who run or jog. Activities where you run or jump on hard surfaces, such as basketball or tennis, can also lead to shin splints. They can also be caused by training too hard or running in shoes that are worn out.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do less of the activity that is causing pain until you feel better.
    • Run on soft surfaces, such as dirt or grass. Avoid hills.
    • Reduce your speed and distance.
  • If you have pain, prop up the sore leg on a pillow. Try to keep your leg above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
    • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Wear shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole. Or try shoe inserts (orthotics). Use them in both shoes, even if only one leg hurts.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have new or worse pain in your shin.
  • The pain becomes focused in one small area of the shin.
  • You are not getting better after 2 weeks.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.