Shin Pain

Most shin pain is the result of repetitive overuse that ends up overloading the structures such as your bone, muscle and tendons. Your calf muscles protect your shin bone from the back, however excessive load through your shin bone (tibia) will cause shin pain and numerous other injuries.

To establish where exactly the shin pain is, can be very helpful at identifying what structure is causing the pain. Shin pain can be caused by any of the muscles, tendons or joints, so let’s look at the different types of structures in the thigh:

Pain in the shin is usually gradual onset and can be difficult to get rid of. Shin splints is known as pain on the inside of the shin but is not a diagnosis in itself but a description of symptoms.

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Each person’s case is unique and we want to address your specific needs. If you would like us to investigate or provide some insight, we invite you to contact us by clicking the link below.

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Muscle pain

The major muscle group on the inside of the shin is the Calf muscles, Gastrocnemius muscle attaches to the top third and the Soleus muscle the middle to lower third. The Flexor muscle group also sits on the inside of the shin (Flexor Digitorum Longus, Brevis and Flexor hallucis longus) and runs along the inside of the lower leg, where their tendons run behind the knob (Medial Maleolus). Theses muscles point your toes and keeps the arch of your foot up.

Muscle strains are often called ‘muscle pulls’ or ‘pulled muscles’ because of the way these injuries occur, the muscle tissue is forced to  stretch beyond its normal limits, and tears. Depending on the number of muscle fibers that are torn, calf muscle strains are classified as first degree (least severe), second degree (moderate severity) and third degree (most severe) strains.

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Nerve pain

Nerve supply to the shin comes from two big branches called the femoral nerve in the front and the sciatic nerve at the back.  Irritation, compression or impingement of these nerves can cause nerve pain in the shin.

Sciatica is also a condition that can cause shin pain from the thigh, over your knee and all the way to your toes. Your femoral nerve can also cause nerve pain to the front and top of your knee.

Tendon pain

Tendons are cables that anchors the bone to muscle tot the bone. Every muscle has a tendon on either side of the muscle, the one at at the top called the proximal tendon and one at the bottom, called the distal tendon. Any one or multiple tendons can become irritated.


Joints can refer pain downwards from the knee, or upwards from the ankle joint. Joint pain is usually more difficult to pinpoint therefore a skilled set of hands would need to determine where the pain is coming from.

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Shin Injuries

Shin pain is extremely common therefore we have helped many patient relieve their pain. Most shin pain don’t start after a fall or injury, but usually develops over time, but it can occur as a result of sports injuries, work injuries or simply everyday leg use.

If you are suffering from shin pain, rather get it checked. Please do not delay in consulting your physiotherapist if you have shin pain. Rather do something about it and get it looked at, than wait with your fingers crossed and hope it goes away.

An accurate diagnosis is vital to manage your pain and treat it appropriately, because what works for one problem rarely works for another. Many conditions can take many months or even years to heal when the diagnosis is incorrect or treatment is neglected.

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Shin Pain


Quadriceps muscle tear or strain
Patellar tendonitis
Quadriceps tendinitis or tendinopathy
Pinched Femoral nerve
Femur Fracture


Hamstring muscle tear or strain
Hamstring tendinitis
Sciatica – pinched Sciatic nerve
Referred pain from Lower back (Lumbar)
Femur Fracture


Adductor muscle strain
Femoral nerve entrapment
Adductor tendinitis
Labrum tear


Vastus Lateralis muscle tear or strain
ITB syndrome (Iliotibial band syndrome)
Bursitis of the Bursa deep to the Iliotibial band
Tensor Facsia Latae muscle strain

Inside the joint

Labrum tear
Knee joint pathologies
Hip joint pathologies

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Causes of Shin pain

Most causes of shin pain in athletes are from bone stress, insufficient blood flow, tendon inflammation, compartment syndrome or nerve entrapment. The structures in the thigh is vulnerable to injury especially overuse injuries i.e. repetitive movements like a walking, climbing stairs and running.

Shin pain may be caused by:

  • Repetitive overload – Bone stress fractures (Medial Tibial Traction Syndrome)
  • Overload – Muscle or ligament strains and sprains.
  • Trauma – Contusions, fractures
  • Overuse – Tendon inflammation
  • Instability – Poor ankle stability (over-pronation of the ankle joint)
  • Autoimmune – Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Referral from other joints – Knee or ankle joint
  • Referral from nerves – Irritation, compression of the femoral or sciatic nerves.
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Shin Pain Treatment

  • Acupuncture & Dry Needling
  • Heat packs (Thermal therapy)
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Rigid Strapping or taping
  • Neurodynamics (Nerve tissue mobilizations)
  • TENS
  • Dynamic Strapping
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Guided loading protocol
  • Stretches (Static, dynamic and ballistic)
  • Moon boot
  • Brace
  • Compression Bandage or Sleeve
  • Supportive strapping and taping
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Gait Analysis
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Why is your shin pain lasting longer than expected?

  • You believed the pain would go away over time (on its own) but it didn’t

  • You went to the Doctor who told you to rest and take painkillers. The painkillers helped to relieve the immediate pain but didn’t help your injured shin. As soon as the painkillers wore off, the shin pain returned

  • A family member (or friend) told you that “Everybody experiences shin pain as they grow older,” and that you should just accepted it

  • In the past you went to other Healthcare Professionals (or a Physiotherapist) but nothing they said or did seemed to help

  • YouTube exercises and home remedies didn’t help relieve the pain, or in some cases made the shin pain ten times worse

  • You thought it would be a good idea to rest because your shin was so sore. However, afterwards your shin felt even worse than before

  • You went for massages, hoping they would relieve the pain. The massages felt pleasant and relaxing, but didn’t do anything to fix your shin pain in the long term

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Experiencing these situations or applying similar advice and not getting results is a good thing. Why? Because these experiences help you know what doesn’t work for you. It means that you are closer to finding out what does work for you!

We invite you to book an appointment with a Physiotherapist (at our Pretoria practice). During an appointment we assess your symptoms, diagnose the cause, educate you about what is happening in your body and then start treatment. See our FAQ for more in depth information about what to expect from a physiotherapy session.

Alternatively, click the link below to book a FREE phone call. The phone call is complimentary and there is no obligation to book any appointments with us after the call is over. This is an opportunity to get an expert’s advice about your situation. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision about what to do next concerning your muscle pain.

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Choose a Cilliers & Swart Physiotherapist to aid you in getting rid of your shin pain

What can we do for you?

  • We quickly put an end to pain and stiffness – often within a couple of sessions

  • We help you find out what is going on in your body and help you understand the root cause of your shin pain

  • Pain can rob you of sleep or rest. We make it easier for you to return to your normal sleeping patterns and positions so that your energy and potential for recovery increases

  • Cilliers & Swart Physiotherapists closely manage and treat your problem. We also provide you with related exercises to speed up your recovery

  • Using painkillers in the long-term can be harmful to your health. We help you lower or completely stop your need for painkillers to manage pain

  • Our physiotherapists safeguard you against dangerous and costly surgeries and painful injections

  • We reduce visits to specialists or doctors who only order you to take more pills

  • Shin pain can limit the activities you enjoy with your family and friends. Our experts help you get back to spending quality time on the activities you (and your loved ones) like

  • We can get you to sit comfortably and walk longer than 15 minutes, in both cases without feeling that your shin is weak, in pain or about to collapse

In short, we help you get back to living life free from shin pain. For information about costs and availability, click the button below:

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4 steps to get rid of shin pain quickly.

  • Decide to get help.
    Many people put off going for treatment, that by the time they receive treatment the injury has worsened over time or caused other problems. Don’t think that shin pain will ‘just go away with time’. It might sound brave to ‘put up with pain’ over an extended period of time, but the lack of treatment could end up costing you more in terms of time (for recovery) and resources (money) the longer you wait.

  • Do the RIGHT exercises.
    One of the best things to help ease your shin pain is an appropriate series of progressed exercises (as advised by your Physiotherapist or Health Professional). The right kind of activities can reduce your pain and increase your range of movement. Above all, exercises ensure that problems don’t come back. However, the wrong kind of exercises have the potential to increase the pain in your shin even more.

  • Avoid sitting still for long periods.
    Ever tried to get up from the sofa after resting for a while, but you struggle? That’s because one of the worst things you can do is to ‘rest’ in a sitting position for too long. As a safety measure we recommend specific strengthening exercises for better posture. We can help you get active by combining these exercises with our Physiotherapists’ hands-on treatment.

  • Get hands-on Physiotherapy treatment.
    Physiotherapy is proven to improve the lives of people suffering from shin pain. Shin pain could be affecting your physical performance in a professional or private capacity. It could even threaten your independence or get in the way of spending quality time with family and friends. Physiotherapy can enable you to live the life you desire as quickly as possible.

If you would like to know how the Physiotherapy team at Cilliers & Swart can help you, we invite you to book a FREE, no-obligation, risk-freeCall me backphone call.

Note: This Free Call is a service we offer to people who are nervous or unsure. You might not know if Physiotherapy is the right treatment for you. If you are unsure, please fill out our online form. We will contact you to find out what is wrong and how we can help. There is no financial obligation or risk on your part. You have nothing to lose except your pain.

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