Medically Reviewed by Dr. Rachel N. Verville

August 27, 2018

Stress fracture vs Shin splintsA Little Elm podiatrist like Dr. Verville of RNV Podiatry does more than just treat your feet and ankles. She also treats conditions of the lower leg. One of the most common lower leg conditions that Dr. Verville receives complaints about are suspected shin splints. But wait a second. Is the real, underlying condition a shin splint or a stress fracture? Both conditions are common amongst runners. Continue reading to learn more about these stress fractures and shin splints, and the differences between them.

What Is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture of the shin is a tiny crack, a series of tiny cracks, or deep bruising along the shin bone. These cracks don’t cause a complete fracture, but instead, a partial one that is painful to runners when they are running and also when they are walking, resting or sometimes even when they are sleeping at night! If Little Elm runners leave shin stress fractures untreated, they can develop into a complete fracture – something that will definitely leave you sidelined for the big race. If you’re a runner and you have pain in your shins, you should see a podiatrist like Dr. Verville of RNV Podiatry to have your condition evaluated and properly diagnosed.

What Is a Shin Splint?

Shin splints, which are actually a more common condition found in runners, occur when there is an inflammation in the tissue running along the bone that is in the shin. They’re caused when muscles and tissues tear by the repeated pounding motion of running, and true causes of shin splints are often weak or tight calf muscles, improperly fitted running shoes, unsupportive running shoes, and an accelerated training program in which you run farther distances before your body is really ready to handle them.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Stress Fracture and Shin Splints?

Since shin splints are much more common amongst Little Elm runners than stress fractures, it’s likely that if you’re experiencing pain in your shins, the cause is shin splints. However, there are tests that can pinpoint the difference. These include:

  • The Point Tenderness Test

With this test, Dr. Verville will run her fingers along your shins to determine where the pain is occurring. If the pain is occurring down the entire shin, it’s likely that you’re suffering from shin splints. However, if the pain is localized, typically to an area the size of a dime, a stress fracture may be the culprit.

  • Getting an MRI

Because stress fractures are so small, a regular X-ray is usually an insufficient means of diagnosing this condition in Little Elm residents. Therefore, if Dr. Verville suspects you have a stress fracture in your shin, she may order an MRI for confirmation.

If Your Shins Hurt when You Run, Call Dr. Verville

The most important thing that runners should take away from this blog post is that if your shins hurt when you are running, you need to stop running and see a podiatrist like Dr. Verville as soon as possible. We know that temporarily stopping your passion can be difficult, but stress fractures, though less common than shin splints, can lead to bigger, more serious bone breaks.

To schedule an appointment at RNV Podiatry today, contact their office in the Little Elm area at (214) 385-8822.