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What’s the difference between shin splints and a tibial stress fracture?

Not much - they exist on the same bone stress injury spectrum, with shin splints (also known as medial tibial stress syndrome) sitting on the least severe end and stress fracture on the most severe.


Check out the graphic for the primary differences between the two:





Generally, shin splints refer to pain on the inside of the lower leg. A stress fracture in this region is called a posteromedial or posterior tibial stress fracture, a low-risk site that typically heals with conservative treatment. Stress fractures of the anterior tibia (front of the bone) are high-risk, often poorly healing and requiring surgery - so any suspicion of injury in this site necessitates prompt imaging & treatment.

Since it can be hard to differentiate & bone injuries typically don't love continued repetitive loading, if you suspect either of these: take a break from pain-provoking activities & get advice from a running-specific healthcare clinician to determine the next course of action. The need for imaging depends on severity & chronicity - it may not be necessary in mild cases responding quickly to activity modification.

Addressing this early (aka not pushing through it 😜) can significantly reduce recovery time. 

Looking for help with your stress fracture rehab? Contact me!

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