How can you tell the difference between compartment syndrome and shin splints?

Compartment syndrome and shin splints are often characterized as pain in the lower leg with exercise. While shin splints are much more common, compartment syndrome can be a dangerous complication that requires professional help. Here a few differences to look for:

Compartment Syndrome Shin Splints
When does the pain occur? During exercise (never before) and lingers long after exercise Can be present before exercise or with other activities, becomes worse with exercise and subsides afterwards
Where is the pain? Outside front of leg Inside front of leg
Nerve symptoms? Numbness, pins or needles sensation over top of foot No nerve symptoms

The treatment varies for each syndrome. Compartment syndrome is usually treated with complete rest from exercise for several months followed by a program of stretching, strengthening, and biomechanical corrections. If this does not work, then surgery is required. Shin splints are treated conservatively with stretching, strengthening, shoe choice, training modifications, and biomechanical corrections.

Any questions regarding your shin pain? Come schedule an evaluation at JGPT today.