What causes shin pain?

Shin pain may be caused by shin splints or other inflammatory processes, infections of the skin or deeper tissues, chronic conditions that damage the peripheral nerves, conditions of the spine, vascular disease, and rarely, tumors of bone or soft tissue.

Musculoskeletal causes of shin pain

Shin pain may be caused by inflammation or damage to your muscles and bones including:

  • Anterior compartment syndrome of the lower leg
  • Bone fracture
  • Shin splints
  • Stress fracture of the tibia (shin bone)

Infectious causes of shin pain

Infections can also cause shin pain. Examples include:

  • Abscesses
  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin and surrounding tissues)
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)

Spinal causes of shin pain

Conditions that affect the spinal cord, the backbone (vertebrae), or the nerves that exit from the spinal cord can all cause pain, burning, numbness, weakness, or a tingling sensation along the course of the nerve that is affected. Examples include:

  • Arthritis affecting the spine
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal cord injury or tumor
  • Spinal degeneration (degenerative disc disease, also called spondylosis)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal, creating pressure on the spinal cord or nerves)

Vascular causes of shin pain

Conditions that affect the blood vessels may be a cause of shin pain including:

  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing or blockage of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities)
  • Varicose veins

Neurologic causes of shin pain

Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord) causes a painful, burning or tingling sensation medically known as paresthesia. Diabetes and alcohol abuse are two common causes of peripheral neuropathy. Causes of shin pain associated with nerve damage include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • HIV infection
  • Nerve entrapment or compression
  • Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord) due to all causes

Serious or life-threatening causes of shin pain

In some cases, shin pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Malignant tumors of bone or soft tissue
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of shin pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your shin pain including:

  • How long have you felt your shin pain?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Is your shin pain the result of an injury?
  • Does anything relieve or worsen the pain?

What are the potential complications of shin pain?

Because shin pain can sometimes be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage.

You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of shin pain may include:

  • Absenteeism from work or school
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Disability
  • Nerve problems that cause pain, numbness or tingling
  • Permanent or chronic pain
  • Spread of infection

References:

Shin splints. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00407. Accessed May 11, 2011.

Shin splints. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003177.htm. Accessed May 11, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is shin pain?

Shin pain is pain that occurs along the shin bone (tibia) in the front part of the lower leg. One common cause of shin pain is shin splints, a term to describe pain that results from overuse or participation in sports involving running or other impact on the foot. Shin splints arise from inflammation of the muscles and other soft tissues of the lower leg. Another common cause of shin pain ... Read more about shin painintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with shin pain?

Shin pain may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that cause shin pain can sometimes involve other body systems.... Read more about shin painsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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