7 Causes of Shin Pain

Article featured on MedicalNewsToday, medically reviewed by Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP — Written by Anna Smith on July 23, 2020

People may typically associate shin pain with shin splints. However, other issues can also cause shin pain.

Medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, is the inflammation of the tendons, muscles, and bone tissue around the tibia. People describe shin splint pain as sharp, or dull and throbbing.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), shin splints are a common cause of shin pain, there are many other causes of shin pain, such as an injury, bone bruise, or stress fracture.

This article will cover a range of reasons why a person may have shin pain, as well as symptoms, treatments, and how to prevent them.

1. Minor injury

A person who has an injury to their shinbone from a fall or blow may experience some pain or bruising.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a minor injury can include:

  • swelling
  • pain
  • bruising
  • a bump
  • bleeding
  • weakness or stiffness in the leg

Treatment

Minor injuries due to a blow to the shin will generally heal quickly. A person with a minor injury to their shin can treat it in the following ways:

  • resting
  • using an ice pack, making sure not to place ice directly on the skin
  • lightly wrapping the injury in a bandage
  • elevating the leg above the heart to help stop any bleeding or swelling

2. Bone bruise

A bone bruise on the shin can occur due to injury, such as a fall or playing sports.

A bone bruise occurs when a traumatic injury to a bone damages blood vessels and blood and other fluids build up in tissues. This causes discoloration to the skin around the damaged area, but the injury is typically deeper than the familiar bruises that appear on the skin. Although a person can bruise any bone, bones nearer the skin, such as the shin, are most common.

Symptoms

It is not always possible to detect whether the bruise is a superficial skin injury or on the bone. Symptoms of a bone bruise on the shin can include:

  • prolonged pain or tenderness
  • swelling in the soft tissue or joint
  • stiffness
  • discoloration in the injured area

Treatment

A person can treat their bone bruise in the following ways:

  • resting
  • applying ice
  • using pain medication
  • raising the leg to reduce swelling
  • wearing a brace to limit movement if required

For more severe bruises, a doctor may need to drain the bruise to remove excess fluid.

3. Stress fracture

Stress fractures occur when muscles become tired through overuse, and they are unable to absorb any extra stress.

When this happens, the muscle transfers the stress to the bone. This causes tiny cracks, or stress fractures, to form. According to the AFP, females, athletes, and military recruits are at higher risk of developing stress fractures.

Stress fractures can be the result of:

  • increasing physical activity suddenly
  • wearing improper footwear, such as worn or inflexible shoes
  • running more than 25 miles per week
  • repetitive, high-intensity training

Females, athletes, and military recruits are all at a higher risk of developing stress fractures, according to the AFP.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a stress fracture in the shinbone include:

  • shin pain when touching or putting weight on the leg
  • prolonged pain
  • tenderness at the site of injury
  • swelling at the site of injury

A stress fracture requires immediate treatment to prevent the small crack from getting bigger.

Treatment

A person who has a stress fracture can treat it in the following ways:

  • reducing activity
  • taking anti-inflammatory drugs
  • using a compression bandage
  • using crutches

4. Bone fracture

The shinbone is the long bone that people fracture most often, according to the AAOS. A fracture to the shinbone can occur due to significant trauma to the leg, such as from a car accident or a bad fall.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a fractured tibia include:

  • severe, immediate pain
  • deformity of the leg
  • possible loss of feeling in the foot
  • bone pushing out skin, or poking through the skin

If a doctor suspects a person has broken their shinbone, they will confirm it with an X-ray.

Treatment

Treatment for a fracture will depend on the type of fracture a person has. For less serious fractures, treatment involves:

  • wearing a splint until the swelling reduces
  • wearing a cast to immobilize the leg
  • wearing a brace to protect and support the leg until fully healed

If the person has an open fracture or one that does not heal with nonsurgical methods, it may require surgery.

5. Adamantinoma and osteofibrous dysplasia

According to the AAOS, adamantinoma and osteofibrous dysplasia (OFD) are rare forms of bone tumors that often begin growing in the shinbone. There are many similarities between the two tumors, and doctors think that they are related. Adamantinoma is a slow-growing, cancerous tumor that accounts for less than 1% of all bone cancers.

Adamantinoma can spread to other parts of the bone. According to the National Cancer Institute, adamantinoma typically appears in young people after their bones have stopped growing. OFD also accounts for less than 1% of all tumors in bones. It is a noncancerous tumor that does not spread and often forms during childhood.A third type of tumor called OFD-like adamantinoma contains cancerous and noncancerous cells and does not spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of both tumors include:

  • swelling near the tumor site
  • pain near the tumor site
  • fracture due to the tumor weakening the bone
  • bowing of the lower leg

Treatment

A healthcare professional will observe and suggest X-rays for both OFD and OFD-like adamantinoma.

  • If the tumor causes the leg to bow, the doctor may recommend wearing a brace.
  • If the tumor causes deformity or bone fractures, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Adamantinomas will require surgery to remove them as they do not respond to chemotherapy or other cancer treatment.

6. Paget’s disease of the bone

Paget’s disease of the bone is a disease of the skeleton that causes newly forming bone to become abnormally shaped, weak, and brittle. Although Paget’s disease can affect any bone in the body, it mainly appears in the spine, pelvis, femur, and shinbone.

Symptoms

Up to 70%of people with Paget’s disease will have no symptoms. However, if symptoms are present, they can include:

  • bone pain
  • dull pain
  • bending of bones
  • bone fractures
  • loss of sensation or movement
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain

Treatment

If a person does not experience any symptoms from Paget’s disease, a doctor may simply monitor it. Treatments for Paget’s disease can include:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs
  • using a cane or brace
  • bisphosphonate medications
  • surgery

The Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center of Oregon is an award-winning, board-certified orthopedic group located in downtown Portland Oregon. We utilize both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders.

Our mission is to return our patients back to pain-free mobility and full strength as quickly and painlessly as possible using both surgical and non-surgical orthopedic procedures.

Our expert physicians provide leading-edge, comprehensive care in the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic conditions, including total joint replacement and sports medicine. We apply the latest state-of-the-art techniques in order to return our patients to their active lifestyle.

If you’re looking for compassionate, expert orthopedic surgeons in Portland Oregon, contact OSM today.

Phone:
503-224-8399

Address
1515 NW 18th Ave, 3rd Floor
Portland, OR 97209

Hours
Monday–Friday

Why are My Legs and Feet Numb?

From Medical News Today; Medically reviewed by Seunggu Han, M.D. — Written by Jennifer Huizenon January 22, 2020

A person may feel numbness in their legs and feet due to sitting in a position that puts too much pressure on the nerves or reduces blood flow. However, long-lasting or unexplained numbness may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Long-term numbness or a tingling feeling in the legs and feet may be due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis(MS), diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or fibromyalgia. The sensation may be felt in the whole leg, below the knee, or in different areas of the foot.

In this article, we look at some of the reasons why a person might experience numbness in the legs and feet, along with symptoms and treatments.

Causes of numbness in legs and feet

Crossing the legs for a long time may cause numbness and tingling in the legs and feet.

Often, a person’s legs go numb temporarily because of their posture. However, chronic or long-lasting numbness in the feet and legs is almost always a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Conditions associated with feet and leg numbness include:

Posture

Postural habits that put pressure on nerves or reduce blood flow in the lower limbs are the most common cause of temporary numbness in the legs and feet. Many people say their leg has “fallen asleep,” and the medical term is transient (temporary) paresthesia.

Habits that can cause the feet and legs to fall asleep include:

  • crossing the legs for too long
  • sitting or kneeling for long periods
  • sitting on the feet
  • wearing pants, socks, or shoes that are too tight

Injury

Injuries to the torso, spine, hips, legs, ankles, and feet can put pressure on nerves and cause the feet and legs to go numb.

Diabetes

Some people with diabetes develop a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet, and if severe, the legs as well.

Lower back issues and sciatica

Problems in the lower back, such as a breakdown or herniation of spinal discs, can cause compression of the nerves going to the legs, leading to numbness or sensory disturbances.

Sciatica is the name for irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the legs. If this nerve becomes irritated or compressed, a person may experience numbness or tingling in their legs or feet.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve that runs down the back of the leg and along the inside of the ankle and into the foot is compressed, squeezed, or damaged.

The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space on the inside of the ankle. People with tarsal tunnel syndrome tend to feel numbness, burning, tingling, and shooting pain in their ankles, heels, and feet.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes the peripheral blood arteries in the legs, arms, and stomach to narrow, reducing the amount of blood they can pump and reducing blood flow. The legs are one of the most common parts of the body impacted by PAD.

Most people with PAD experience pain and cramping in their legs and hips when they are walking or going upstairs. Some people with PAD also experience leg numbness and weakness.

Symptoms of PAD typically go away after a few minutes of rest.

Tumors or other abnormal growths

Tumors, cysts, abscesses, and benign (non-cancerous) growths can put pressure on the brain, spinal cord, or any part of the legs and feet. This pressure can restrict blood flow to the legs and feet, causing numbness.

Alcohol use

The toxins in alcohol can cause nerve damage that is associated with numbness, especially in the feet.

Chronic or excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to nerve damage that causes numbness. This type of nerve damage is linked to reduced levels of B vitamins, such as B-1 (thiamine), B-9 (folate), and B-12, which is caused by excessive alcohol intake.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic or long-lasting condition that causes widespread body pain, aching, and tenderness. Some people with fibromyalgia also experience numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

Most people with fibromyalgia experience a variety of symptoms including:

  • stiffness and soreness for no apparent reason, especially in the morning or after sleeping
  • chronic exhaustion
  • memory problems and difficulty thinking clearly, sometimes called fibro-fog
  • restless leg syndrome

Almost everyone with fibromyalgia experiences symptoms in more than one part of their body for at least 3 months at a time. If numbness in the legs and feet is not accompanied by any other symptoms or is not long-term, it is unlikely to be caused by fibromyalgia.

Multiple sclerosis

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience sensory nerve damage that can cause numbness in a small region of their body or whole limbs. Although numbness associated with MS often only lasts for a short period, it can last long enough to become disabling.

Stokes and mini-strokes

Strokes or mini-strokes can cause brain damage that may affect how the mind interprets and processes nerve signals. A stroke or mini-stroke can sometimes cause temporary or long-term numbness in parts of the body.

Symptoms

Numbness is just one of the many symptoms associated with temporary and chronic numbness.

Many people with numbness in their legs and feet experience additional symptoms at the same time or intermittingly, such as:

  • tingling
  • burning
  • tickling
  • itching
  • a crawling feeling under the skin
Treatment

The proper treatment for numb legs and feet depends entirely on the cause.

Medication

Medical options for long-term numbness in the legs and feet include:

  • Antidepressants. Some antidepressants, such as duloxetine and milnacipran, have been approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
  • Corticosteroids. Some corticosteroids can help reduce chronic inflammation and numbness associated with conditions such as MS.
  • Gabapentin and pregabalin. Medications that block or change nerve signaling may help reduce numbness associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia, MS, and diabetic neuropathy.

Home remedies

Home remedies that may help to relieve uncomfortable numbness in the legs and feet include:

  • Rest. Many of the conditions that cause leg and foot numbness, such as nerve pressure, improve with rest.
  • Ice. Ice can help reduce swelling that can put pressure on nerves. Apply cold compresses or wrapped icepacks to numb legs and feet for 15 minutes at a time several times daily.
  • Heat. Heat can sometimes help loosen stiff, sore, or tense muscles that can put pressure on nerves and cause numbness. However, avoid overheating numb legs and feet, as this may or worsen inflammation and cause pain and numbness.
  • Massage. Massaging numb legs and feet helps improve blood flow and may reduce symptoms.
  • Exercise. A lack of proper exercise can weaken the heart and blood vessels, reducing their ability to pump blood to the lower limbs. Activities such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi can promote blood flow and reduce chronic inflammation or pain.
  • Supportive devices. Braces and specially designed footwear can help reduce nerve pressure caused by conditions such as injury, tarsal tunnel syndrome, or flat feet.
  • Epsom salt baths. Epsom salts contain magnesium, a compound known to increase blood flow and circulation. Epsom salts are available for purchase online.
  • Mental techniques and stress reduction. People with conditions that cause chronic numbness, such as MS and fibromyalgia, should try to focus on the fact that the periods of numbness are often short-lived and go away on their own. Stress also tends to make the symptoms of central nervous system disorders worse.
  • Sleep. Many of the chronic conditions associated with leg and feet numbness are known to worsen with a lack of proper sleep.
  • A healthful, balanced diet. Malnutrition, especially vitamin B deficiencies, can cause nerve damage leading to numbness. Getting enough vitamins and other nutrients can also reduce chronic inflammation and pain, which can cause numbness.
  • Alcohol reduction or avoidance. Alcohol contains toxins that can cause nerve damage and numbness. Alcohol also usually makes the symptoms of chronic pain and inflammatory conditions worse and can even cause flare-ups of symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Talk with a doctor about numbness in the legs and feet that:

  • is not related to postural habits or lifestyle factors, such as tight clothing and footwear
  • lasts for long periods
  • is accompanied by any other chronic symptoms
  • is accompanied by permanent or long-term changes in the color, shape, or temperature of the legs and feet

Numbness in the legs and feet is a common disorder, though when it becomes chronic, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Anyone who experiences numbness that is unexplained, persistent, frequent, painful, disabling, or accompanied by other chronic symptoms should see a doctor for a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

 


The Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center of Oregon is an award-winning, board-certified orthopedic group located in downtown Portland Oregon. We utilize both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders.

Our mission is to return our patients back to pain-free mobility and full strength as quickly and painlessly as possible using both surgical and non-surgical orthopedic procedures.

Our expert physicians provide leading-edge, comprehensive care in the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic conditions, including total joint replacement and sports medicine. We apply the latest state-of-the-art techniques in order to return our patients to their active lifestyle.

If you’re looking for compassionate, expert orthopedic surgeons in Portland Oregon, contact OSM today.

Phone:
503-224-8399

Address
1515 NW 18th Ave, 3rd Floor
Portland, OR 97209

Hours
Monday–Friday
8:00am – 4:30pm