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Anterior Shin Splints | Causes and treatment options

What are shin splints?

How do I treat anterior shin splints?

Shin splints describe two distinctly different lower extremity problems; anterior shin splints and posterior shin splints.  In this post, let's focus on anterior shin splints.  I'll follow with a second post on posterior shin splints.

Tibialis anterior muscle - graphicAnterior shin splints are the most common form of shin splints.  Pain is specific to the middle to distal 1/3 of the lower leg and found on the anterior, medial aspect of the tibia (shin bone).  This location on the shin corresponds to the origin of the tibialis anterior muscle.   The origin of a muscle is where the muscle begins (proximally).  This is different than the insertion of the muscle.  The insertion is where the muscle (or tendon attached to the muscle) inserts or ends.

The tibialis anterior muscle can easily be seen in your own legs.  To visualize the tibialis anterior muscle, sit with your shoe and socks off.  Turn your feet slightly until the soles face each other and pull your toes towards your shin.  The muscle that pops up on the anterior medial ankle is the tibialis anterior muscle.Tibialis anterior tendon

The most common cause of anterior shin splints is overuse of the tibialis anterior muscle.  Overuse results in stretching or tearing of the origin of the tibialis anterior on the anterior shin.  Although anterior shin splints are the most common cause of shin pain, the differential diagnosis of anterior shin pain includes:

  • Compartment syndrome
  • Tibial stress fracture

How do you treat anterior shin splints?

First, be sure to read our knowledge base page on anterior shin splints.  The article will help you to understand the causes of anterior shin splints.  Begin treatment with some very simple steps:

  • Do not over stride - take shorter steps
  • Do not run downhill
  • Stretch the lower leg 4-6 times a day.
  • Ice the anterior, medial shin before and after exercise.

Shin splints are usually caused by overuse and are often seen at the onset of an activity (beginning of track season for example).   Try these simple steps to begin treatment.  If your symptoms do not begin to subside after two weeks of treatment, consult your doctor to rule out a tibial stress fracture.


Dr. Jeffrey Oster
Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Advisor

Updated 12/24/19

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