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Shin splints or stress fracture?

Question: Shin splints or stress fracture?

Hi everybody,

I am a kickboxer and am having significant difficulty recovering from what I have been told is a bad case of shin splints. I am into my 9th week of injury now, and I am terribly frustrated.
I live in an area where there is a serious shortage of Physicians and as a result I have had to rely on walk-in clinics and the emergency room for treatment. I say treatment lightly because I have had alot of difficulty getting a doctor to follow up with my injury. I have been doing Physio Therapy for three weeks and it is not helping any. I have tried stopping training for two weeks, physio, taping, anti-inflamatories, ice, heat ect. I tried working out on it last week and the pain was pretty much unbearable. I have been X-rayed twice to rule out a stress fracture and both X-Rays were negative. My Physio Therapist thinks I need a bone scan and possibly to be casted to provide complete immobilization.
Has anyone else ever had a stress fracture that did not show up on x-rays? I have point tenderness on my Tibia and I am now at the point that I am getting pain in my leg even when I am not weight bearing and I am at rest.
This has halted my training and I am at my wits end with the pain and doctors telling me to go home and take an Advil!

Any advice or even a shared experience would be helpful!!



I am also a Martial artist of 10 years and I am studying medicine.
I am no where near qualified to say anything, especially if I do not see.
However if you want my humble opinion shin splintsm which it sounds like it is too me. Shin splints are most commonly caused from quick development of muscles in the leg. In martial arts this is common.
In this case with rapidly developing muscle, what happens is the connective tissues are pulled from the bone by the muscle. There is a covering called periosteum which is Greek for (around the bone.) As this covering is on all your bones. When this is pulled by the rapidly developing muscles it causes pain. This is what people call shin splints.

Honestly you are not going to like what I am going to say next but the way to get it better is stop or modify your training.
Also 2 weeks is not enough time to stop. Also anything that helps with anti inflammatory works good. Joint grease is decent, I use that alot, or some tiger balm strong. Also ice is good. But no more then 10 minutes on at a time, and no direct contact. Use a towel or ice pack.
Just don't overuse any ointments or ice.

What we need to realize as fighters is there are other things we can do when injuries occur.

First is accept you are injured, because fighters like us get hurt. It's a fact.
The second thing is learn from it. Recognize how you became injured. This way you can learn to not do it next time.

Third is to do everything you can to help the injury heal.
and Lastly, modify your training. Write down all the things you can do and do them.

Right now I have a broken toe, so I have been working on upper body, and not doing any kicking or running. I can still do ground work.|

Maybe you might want to work the heavy bag with upper body instead or work upper body weights. Practice your punches and lay off your kicks.

Just leave the legs alone for a while, and after they stop hurting still give them a week or two.

Light stretching also could help. But LIGHT stretching.

If you don't take any of this into consideration you will be in for a long haul of pain. And shin splints not treated properly may develop into anterior compartment syndrome. (trust me you don't want that)

Anyway good luck and still get a professional opinion.
As I said I am still in school for at least 5 more years.


Great advice. I plan on just working on my upper body and possibly trying an exercise bike in the gym to keep my cardio up if I can tolerate it. I have developed a significant amount of muscle mass in my legs over a short period of time and your rapid muscle development info makes a ton of sense. I will continue with ice, rest and a topical anti-inflammatory and of course a good dose of common sense with regard to training and I will hope for the best.

Thanks again!


I am a college basketball player and I actually just went through the very same thing you are going through right now.

Halfway through my season I developed shin splits. Immediately I saw our team athletic therapist who recommended I firstly, tape my arches until I get insoles for my shoes because I have flat feet which can cause shin splints. Also she gave me exercises to do but really simply told me the exercises weren't going to heal it. That take's way more time and rest. They were really just to help maintain the pain and stop them from getting worse.

What I found really helped as well was taping my shins. We used elastic athletic tape and wrapped it around my whole calf muscle. if the pain is on the inside of the shin you should tape starting in the front and going around clockwise, pulling the muscle in that direction so the muscle isnt pulling away from the bone.

All of that aside the number one thing I want to recommend to you is to ice bath. It honestly saved my life, without them I would not have been able to play through the shin splints. After every practice/game I would submerge my legs from the knees down in our ice bath. (temp at 10 degrees Celsius), and i would keep them in for 15-20 minutes. It was seriously like it was putting out the constant fiery pain on my legs.

Lastly, I too was having pains after I had stopped playing. All along my tibia bone and it was just constantly aching no matter what I did, sit, walk, stand, everything. So I was sent to get a bone scan and it showed up negative. My therapist was sure I had stress fractures but I didn't.

shin splints are extremely hard to heal and my athletic therapist actually gave me a "walk to run" program that is 50 days long and should eliminate them completely. If you are interested in it just let me know.
Hope I helped.


I know it's been a while since you've posted, but I've been trying to get over shin splints for almost a Year now and nothing seems to help. I'll like be healthy and able to run before the next sport season starts. And I was just wondering what the 'walk to run' program is. And if it's anything that can help heal my shins



Hello, I'm struggling through something similar

I'm a long distance runner and gradually over time I have developed pain in my tibia.
Right leg mid shaft.
My X-rays came back negative and I also had an ultrasound and was also negative for tissue or muscle damage.

The pain is there constantly sometimes it keeps me awake at night, I know the exact spot it hurts.
They are telling me it's shin splints but apparently this is a laymans terms for "stress fracture"

My doctor said if I'm still experiencing pain and anti inflammations or icing doesn't help (which it hasn't) then I need a bone scan or MRI.

I know that most stress fractures can only be detected once the healing process starts and only with a ct scan MRI or bone scan.

Only one leg is affected and I never experience the tight calf feeling like you did.

I hope I get the answers I need because for me running is freedom.


Shin Splints is not another term for stress fracture. "Shin splints" is a catch all term and more appropriately termed "medial tibial stress syndrome" and more accurately termed "medial tibial periostitis". Shin splint pain is usually more diffuse and generally gets better (at least somewhat) as you warm up and returns after activity. Whereas a stress fracture will be localized pain that is constant or worsens with impact.

A bone scan or MRI is the choice for suspected stress fractures as it can pick up any periosteal stress reaction (which x-ray won't) prior to an actual fracture occurring.

Pain on the bone is not a good sign. Unfortunately, if you have a stress fracture or a stress reaction, removal from the aggravating activity is first and foremost. A non-weight bearing boot may be required as well. If offered to wear or boot or pass, wear the boot! Healing will occur much faster if you wear the boot-which means return to sport faster!

Once clinical healing occurs (minimal to no palpable pain at the site and minimal to no pain with activities in the brace), you can then begin walking and gradually progress exercise over then next month.

To prevent recurrence, you have to take a look at your training regimen and biomechanics (including footwear)to determine what precipitated the injury. Also, if you only run, incorporate some cross-training activity into your training.

Hope that helps...