Diagnose Your Symptoms: Knowing If Your Shin Splint is a Stress Fracture

Posted by tuan on September 7th, 2017


Runners old and new experience pain and plenty of it! So, when that shooting pain in your shins just won’t go away, how do you know if it’s just shin splints or something more serious? Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Sometimes it isn’t. And I would argue that in the case of a stress fracture, ignorance is not bliss. So how do you know? How can you tell if it’s shin splints you feel or a stress fracture?

Do Shin Splints and Stress Fractures Feel Different?

No, not really. So, if shin splints and stress fractures don’t feel any different how do you know which injury it is? Both shin splints and stress fractures are painful overuse injuries with stress fractures being much more rare. Here are some differences in symptoms to help you distinguish between the two:

Shin Splints

  • Generalized pain and tenderness over an area
  • May have some swelling
  • Pain during activity, mild pain before/after activity
  • Presents bilaterally (on both legs)

Stress Fracture

  • Localized pain (can pinpoint specific trouble area)
  • May have some swelling
  • May have some bruising
  • Severe pain before and after activity, moderate pain that increases during activity
  • Usually only presents on one leg


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