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A benign, or harmless, lump on the shin may be caused by underlying skin conditions like cysts, warts, or abscess Other causes for lumps on the shin bone include trauma from an injury, or abnormal cell growth that can be non cancerous like lipoma. Learn more below about shin lump causes, related symptoms, and treatment options.
Common shin lump symptoms
The shin is the area in front of the leg below the knee. It contains the tibia, (also called the shinbone) which can usually be easily felt with palpation, and the fibula, a smaller bone of the lower leg. See this image for a visual representation of the bones in the shin.
Common characteristics and accompanying symptoms of a shin lump
A lump in this area may feel strange as it is often associated with symptoms such as:
- Pain or discomfort
- Tenderness to the touch
Less concerning symptoms
New lumps and bumps on the body are also concerning since they can be the initial sign of a cancerous process. However, there are signs and symptoms that are reassuring. Lumps in the shin are less concerning if they have the following characteristics:
- Easily mobile
- Get smaller in size with rest
More concerning symptoms
Lumps in the shin that require prompt follow-up include the following characteristics:
- Rigid/stuck in place
- Grows in size over time
Make an appointment with your physician if you experience these symptoms in order to get appropriate treatment and counseling.
Causes of bumps on the shin
There are various specific structures within the shin region muscles, nerves, and bones.
- Muscles: The main muscle of the shin is called the tibialis anterior muscle. This muscle attaches to bones in the foot and allows you to flex the foot toward the shin (dorsiflexion).
- Nerves: The nerves that provide sensation and innervation to the shin area, as well as parts of the foot, arise from the deep peroneal nerve (common fibular nerve). This nerve and its branches give sensation to the shin as well as the ankle and foot.
- Bones: As discussed above, the shin is composed of the tibia and the fibula.
There are also various tendons, ligaments, and arteries throughout this area. Conditions that affect these structures can result in shin lumps and can be categorized as benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Benign (non-cancerous) causes of shin lumps include:
- Traumatic: Trauma to the knee/shin area from minor events such as bumping a table or falling,or serious events such as a motor vehicle accident, can result in shin lumps. Repetitive injury to the knee area, especially before the bones of the leg have completed growing, can also result in a lump in the shin. This condition is known as Osgood-Schlatter disease. It is common in young people who play sports that involve running, jumping and climbing, such as basketball or gymnastics.
- Inflammatory: Some inflammatory conditions, such as erythema nodosum and other forms of panniculitis, can result in multiple bumps in the shin that can be red and fairly tender. Panniculitis is a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the fatty tissue under the skin and result in skin nodules.
- Cysts: Cysts are sacs that can be filled with fluid, air or other material that can form in any part of the body. Cysts can occur in the shin and cause pain that can lead to injury from constant inflammation.
In general, any growth is the result of cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. Sometimes there is a genetic mutation in DNA or a specific protein or failure in an important checkpoint that results in this unchecked growth. These abnormal cells accumulate to form a noticeable lump. A lump (also known as a tumor) can be benign; however, if this lump grows and invades the body it is considered malignant (cancerous).
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.
The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.
Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.
It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.
It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.
These cysts are not contagious.
Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.
Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.
Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.
If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.
Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.
Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash
Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters
Urgency: Primary care doctor
A dermatofibroma is a common skin growth that usually appears on the lower legs, but may appear anywhere on the body. These growths are benign (noncancerous). Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are rarely found in children.
Symptoms include a hard, raised growth that is red, pink, ..
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer. Skin cancer falls into two major groups: Non-melanoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Top Symptoms: facial skin changes, pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painless facial bump, growing facial lump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Cherry angiomas are small, red, harmless skin findings that occur commonly in older adults. They are clumps of overgrown cells derived from the inside of blood vessels, or vascular endothelium. Cherry angiomas most commonly start appearing around age 40 and some estimates suggest that the major...
Hemangioma (a common, benign skin change)
A hemangioma is a birthmark that most often appears as a bright red, rubbery nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin. It is sometimes called a "strawberry mark," and it grows within the first year of life.
Top Symptoms: growing armpit lump, cherry red armpit bump, shrinking armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with hemangioma (a common, benign skin change): cherry red armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
Lower leg weakness
Any leg weakness is a sign of nerve damage, which is very worrisome and requires you to go see a doctor immediately!
Top Symptoms: lower leg weakness, foot weakness, arm weakness, loss of vision, severe pelvis pain
Urgency: Hospital emergency room
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal, or "ugly looking."
Top Symptoms: brown-colored skin changes, atypical features of a facial bump, black-colored skin changes, growing facial lump, large facial lump
Symptoms that always occur with melanoma: atypical features of a facial bump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
When and how to treat shin bumps
When to see a doctor for a shin lump
Since the causes of shin lumps are varied, it is important to make an appointment with your physician in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest:
- Surgery: Surgery is often the first-line option for removing both benign and malignant growths from the shin and other areas of the body. Surgery for malignant growths is also often combined with other chemical treatments.
- Pain medication: Medications such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents) that help alleviate the pain associated with shin lumps are often used to help treat this condition.
- Anti-inflammatory: Inflammatory causes of shin lumps may be treated with various types of medications that target and decrease inflammation, including immune system suppressing drugs (immunosuppressants).
- Cancer Treatment: If your shin lump and associated symptoms are due to malignant cancer, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
At-home treatments for a shin lump
In the meantime, supportive measures such as resting and leg elevation combined with icing and warm, compression bandages may also help alleviate swelling and discomfort. You can remember these methods with the mnemonic RICE (rest, ice, elevation, and compression). If your shin lump lessens or goes away with these supportive measures, your condition is most likely not life-threatening.
FAQs about shin lump
Will the lump in my shin go away on its own?
Depending on the cause, there is a possibility that the lump and the accompanying pain will go away on its own. If the shin lump is a cyst or caused by trauma or repetitive injury, the likelihood that it will go away on its own is high. However, if the shin lump is a benign or malignant tumor, it will not resolve on its own and will require follow-up.
Will the lump spread from one shin to the other?
If the lump is red or multiple lumps appear on one leg, this is most likely an inflammatory etiology like erythema nodosum. These bumps may spread and affect the other leg in the first few weeks; however, they can be easily treated and often resolve on their own. Other causes of shin lumps, on the other hand, usually do not spread from one shin to the other.
Is the lump chronic or temporary?
A shin lump may be temporary or chronic depending on the cause. A chronic shin lump is more associated with benign or malignant growths whereas temporary lumps are more associated with traumatic or inflammatory causes.
How will the lump affect my daily activities?
A shin lump can be very painful and uncomfortable, but those related to trauma or repetitive activity should not affect your day-to-day in the long-term. After a traumatic event, bed rest and limited activity on the affected shin will help with recovery, but after full recovery, knee or leg function should not be significantly affected. A shin lump associated with a benign or malignant growth may cause fatigue or unexplained weight loss, which may affect your energy to complete tasks. See your physician promptly if you feel like your symptoms are significantly affecting your life.
What can I do to prevent the development of shin lumps
It is very difficult to prevent the development of shin lumps. The only situations in which the development of shin lumps may be prevented are those related to a repetitive injury. It may help to limit activities that require a lot of jumping or running, and instead participate in cross-training activities that limit stress on the joints.
Questions your doctor may ask about shin lump
- What color is the bump?
- Is your lower leg bump painful to touch?
- Any fever today or during the last week?
- Do you have a rash?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Dr. Gambrah-Lyles is a resident pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (2019). She graduated cum laude and received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis (2013). Her research explores the intersections between neurology, public health, and infectious disease. She has investigated nutrition and cerebral palsy in Botswana, and completed a year-long project in Brazil, researching growth and developmental outcomes of Zika virus infection in pediatric patients as a Doris Duke International Scholar. Dr. Gambrah-Lyles speaks four languages, loves staying active, and enjoys sharing her love for medicine through teaching and writing.
- Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Lumps and Bumps on Your Body: When You Should Worry. CC Link.
- disease, O. (2018). Osgood-Schlatter disease: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Medlineplus.gov. Medline Link.
- Urmc.rochester.edu. (2018). Orthopaedic Tumor Care - UR Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center - Rochester, NY. URMC Link.
- Elizabeth Race, J. (2018). Painful nodule with induration and spreading erythema. PubMed Central (PMC). NCBI Link.