Shin splints refers to pain along the shins, or the front of the leg between the knee and ankle. The pain is typically worse along the lower one-third of the leg. The muscle in this area controls upward movement of the foot, and the pain is caused by overuse and strain of this muscle. The most common cause of shin splints is athletic activity that involves running.
Shin splints are diagnosed on the basis of the typical area involved and the type of movement that increases the pain. People with rigid, high-arched feet are especially prone to shin splints.
The treatment of shin splints primarily involves rest. Medications can also be used to help control pain and inflammation. Activities may need to be modified to prevent shin splints from recurring. Improper footwear is often a culprit, and biomechanical issues may need correcting with the use of custom orthotics.
Shin splints may become more severe and cause pain with normal walking. Progressive damage to involved muscle can occur, especially if there is swelling. Damage to the bone to which the muscle is attached, a stress fracture, can also occur.