Two bones make up the lower leg: the tibia and the fibula. When talking about the shin bone, the tibia is being referred to. It is the longer of the two bones which support most body weight. The tibia is attached to both the knee and ankle joint.
A lump can develop on the shinbone or the parts it is attached to. Most lumps on bones require some medical attention. This is because infections and diseases of bones are quite hard to treat especially if discovered late. Serious fractures on the shin bone can cause total inability to stand or walk.
It is always important to go for medical diagnosis for a lump on any part of your body. In this article, we will go through the common causes of lumps on the shinbone, the symptoms and available treatment options.
Painful sore lump on shinbone; shin splits
The most common cause of pain and perhaps a sore lump on the shinbone is shin splits. ‘Shin splits’ is a collective term for pain that occurs in the tibia, mostly towards the medial end. People who play sports such as soccer, tennis and basketball or other athletic activities such as running often develop shin splits.
Causes and risk factors
Your muscles, joints, bones, tissues and cells get damaged every day. At rest, your body naturally repairs the worn-out parts, a continuous process that goes on forever. Strenuous physical activities sometimes cause so much damage on the muscles, joints and bones of the lower leg that natural repair mechanisms cannot keep up. This leads to shin splits.
Risk factors include:
- Strenuous physical activities
- Flat foot syndrome
- Lack of exercises
- Military training
- Start-stop sports
- Running on hills and uneven surfaces
- Worn-out shoes
Pain in the lower shin bone is the most common symptom of shin splits. The pain can stop when you are playing or running but comes back when resting. Lumps may also be felt along the inside of the shinbone. This will be accompanied by tender or sore swelling in the inner part of your lower leg. In most cases, the swelling will not be very noticeable.
Treatment and prevention
In a hospital, your doctor will perform a physical test. It will be helpful if you can make a list of the symptoms you have been having and the physical activities you have engaged in recently. If symptoms indicate potential muscle tears or a fractured shinbone, imaging tests will be performed.
Medical treatment for shin splits is usually not necessary. Your doctor may prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications. The affected lower leg may also be dressed with an elastic bandage. Surgery is an option but rarely necessary.
Shin splits is not a medical emergency. Only see your doctor if the pain is intolerable or involves muscle strains and bone fractures. Mild shin splints will improve after resting for a couple of hours or for several days. During this period, it is important to keep your lower legs slightly active. You can for example go for walks.
- Cold compress with ice packs on the affected leg. It reduces pain and swelling.
- Massage your lower legs, preferably with a foam roller
- Avoid overdoing exercises or pushing yourself too hard. You can try warming up before a sport.
- Fit your shoes with arch supports or soft insoles.
- Avoid hard surfaces or hilly terrains when running.
- Consider exercises meant to strengthen your calf muscles.
- Allow shin splits to heal before going back to the activity that may have caused them.
Hard lump on shinbone; bone cancer on tibia
A cancerous hard lump on the shinbone can be caused by bone cancer of the tibia. If cancerous cells have originated in the cells of the tibia, it is referred to as a primary shinbone tumor. If it has spread from other organs such as from a lump on thyroid, lungs or breast, it is referred to as a metastatic shinbone tumor. The latter is harder to treat. This is because it can still recur after treatment if the original tumor is not discovered.
Cancer tumors develop when mistakes are made in the instructions that cells use when dividing or self-destroying. Normally, cells only divide when there is need to, for example like when replacing worn-out bone cells. In case of cancer, cells will continue dividing even when there is no reason to. This results in accumulation of new cells that form a hard lump on tissues and in this case the shinbone.
Lump on shinbone
The most common symptom of tibia bone cancer is appearance of a lump which may be accompanied by swelling. Depending on its location, the lump may be painful, painless, soft, hard, mobile or fixed. Normally, cancer lumps are not painful. Pain usually occurs when the lump presses on nerves. If the lump occurs near the knee joint, it can lead to swelling of bursa and cause pain. Tumors that develop in internal organs are more likely to become painful at one point. A cancerous lump in the pelvic area of a female is a good example.
Most patients will experience an ache in the shinbone. In early stages of tumor development, the ache will come and go.
Tumors usually weaken the shinbone. As a result, fractures may become more recurrent. You may also experience reduced leg functionality such as getting tired after short walks.
You may also notice other symptoms of cancer such as lump in throat after eating, fever, unexplained weight loss and swollen lymph nodes.
Diagnosis and treatment
If a lump on the shinbone is suspected to be cancerous, your doctor will perform imaging tests and biopsy to confirm diagnosis.
Cancer is scary but very much treatable if discovered early enough. See your doctor if you notice a lump in your shinbone that seems to have no explainable cause and shows signs of malignancy. Treatment for cancer lumps usually requires more than one approach. Most common ones include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Painful and sore lump on shinbone
A painful lump on the shinbone can be a bone bruise. It occurs when you have a small injury on bone surfaces. Bones closer to the surface are more prone. The shinbone is a good example.
Common symptoms include a tender lump on the shinbone and pain. The skin will in most cases become discolored due to accumulation of blood and fluid on the injured part. Bone bruises can resolve on their own even without treatment. See your doctor if pain gets worse or the swelling doesn’t subside even with OTC medications.
Other causes of hard lump on shinbone
- Cysts – the more common cases of cysts include hard lump behind ear, hard lump on scalp, neck, back and such body regions. However, cysts can also develop in bones.
- Diseases and health conditions – there are quite a number of diseases that result in inflammation on or around bones. Most of them can affect more than one bone in the body.
- Bone spur – a bone spur is an outgrowth that develops on bone cartilages. They are commonly found on joints. These growths occur as a natural mechanism to prevent damage on affected bones. For example, joints affected by ‘wear and tear’ arthritis can develop bone spurs.
- Tumors – not all bone tumors are malignant. This means that they will not invade or spread to other body parts. Bone tumors are not common causes of lumps on shinbone though.
The only way you can be certain as to whether a lump on your shinbone is dangerous or not is by going for medical diagnosis. Don’t wait until symptoms have become intolerable or a lump has grown so large that it can be seen. Even a small lump can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition. The good thing is that modern medicine has a solution to almost every cause of a lump on the shinbone.