Shin splints & other common causes of leg pain

Since the leg supports the weight of your entire body and contains lots of moving parts, it’s subject to several painful conditions. Here are some of the most common conditions and causes of leg pain.

Shin splints

The medical term for shin splints is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. This syndrome happens when excess stress is placed on the muscles, bones, and tendons in the lower leg. Runners, dancers, and military recruits are commonly affected by shin splints, especially if they suddenly change or increase their exercise routine.  

Shin splints cause pain and soreness along the inner part of the tibia, commonly called the “shin bone.” Some patients experience swelling along the tibia as well. 

Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful treatments. Also, increasing your exercise routine gradually can minimize the risk of developing shin splints. Shin Splint recovery stretches are also a great way to ease the pain.

Osgood-Schlatter disease

Osgood-Schlatter Disease is caused by inflammation and swelling just below the kneecap, where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibia bone at a juncture called the tibial tuberosity

This condition typically occurs in childhood when the growth plate at the top of the tibia is inflamed by repetitive movement. If the inflammation persists, patients can end up with a permanent hard bump just under their kneecap. 

Osgood-Schlatter Disease is common in kids who engage in sports that require a lot of running, jumping or deep knee-bending. It’s also common in kids who ride their bikes for long periods of time. 

To prevent the permanent effects of Osgood-Schlatter Disease, children who are experiencing pain or swelling along their tibial tuberosity should take a break from repetitive activities until the inflammation resolves.

Deep Vein thrombosis 

A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a large, deep vein. The most common site for a DVT is in the lower leg. DVTs typically cause calf pain, swelling and redness. If it’s not detected and treated promptly, the clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs where it becomes a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be potentially fatal. 

Risk factors for DVTs include sitting or lying-in bed for long periods of time, hormonal birth control, smoking, obesity, surgery, trauma, advanced age and pregnancy. Anyone with calf pain, redness or swelling should seek prompt medical attention. Ultrasound is the most used tool to diagnose a DVT.

Muscle cramps

Muscle cramps in the calf muscle are commonly referred to as “Charley horses.” The term may have originated with an old horse named Charley that was used by the White Sox baseball team in the 1800s to pull a roller across the infield. Because of his age, the horse would often limp. People who limped because they had a painful muscle cramp in their calf began to liken their symptoms to Charley, the limping horse.

These muscle cramps can be caused by poor circulation, exertion, dehydration or a deficiency in potassium or magnesium. Anyone who experiences frequent muscle cramps should seek medical attention to have their symptoms further evaluated.

Visit urgent care for leg pain

If you need help with determining the causes of leg pain, come see the experts at one of our urgent care locations. You can walk in without an appointment, or you can check in online. We’re here 7 days a week. We’ll have you back to feeling better in no time.



Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant