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Part 2: Step by Step- Navigating the Terrain of Shin Splints

Last week’s blog delved into what shin splints are and why athletes should be aware of them when amping up their training. This week’s blog is going to delve into the part athletes are often more intererested in: “I’m pretty sure I have shin splints, now what can I do about them?” 

 How do we handle shin splints in PT?

The diagnosis of MTSS typically requires a temporary reduction/modification in running volume, especially in cases of severe pain, or pain with daily activities. Working with a PT at Made 2 Move can give you strategies to modify around this shin pain while not losing all your fitness. We aren’t JUST going to look at you and say “you need to stop running,” because that isn’t a long-term solution.

We may put a pause on running, which may be frustrating, but we promise we’ll supplement it with plenty of challenging modifications. 

For example, we may make the following modifications

  • For keeping up aerobic fitness in the cross country or marathon runner:

  • Instead of long runs → long swim, ski, row, bike, or sled push. 

  • For sprinters + intervals: 

  • Instead of sprint repeats on the track/treadmill → intervals on the bike, ski, rower, or sled. 

  • For building up tissue tolerance/capacity → ankle isometrics, tempo squats, step downs, lunges, anterior tibialis exercises- just to name a few. 

Along with a reduction in running, we'll often  recommend introducing specific strength training exercises to build up the tissues and bones of the lower body so they can handle stress. Why do we care about strength training?

  • “During impact loading, muscle is believed to act as an active shock attenuator, helping to reduce loads as they are transmitted proximally along the kinetic chain. When muscles are dysfunctional (weakened, fatigued, or altered in their activation patterns), their ability to attenuate loads becomes compromised, potentially leading to increased loading on the skeleton” (Warden et al. 2014). 

That was A LOT, but basically, think of muscle as a buffer/cushion for your bones. When muscles are strong, fueled, and on their A-game, they are able to better absorb some of the forces coming up from the ground during a run or jump, subsequently allowing less forces to go through the bones.

Here’s a video of some of our favorite exercises for athletes who come to us with shin splints! Pro tip - you don't have to wait until you have shin splints to start these exercises. You can start them now, to reduce the risk of them (HEY PREHAB)! 


Here's 3 simple tips to mitigate your risk of experiencing  shin splints: 

  1. AVOID fast ramp ups in running volume (like, I'm used to running 3 miles a week, this week I'm gonna run 10). 

  2. Increases in training volume are fine (and often necessary for certain adaptations), but the rapid ramp up is usually not tolerated well. Increase your mileage GRADUALLY. 

  3. Take regular rest days and deload weeks (Don't run every single day). 

  4. Supplement a few of your running days with lower body strength training!

Runners like to run, which can put them in pesky pain situations, like shin splints. Shin splints are a great example of when the devil is in the dosage. The right amount of loading will cause positive changes, the wrong amount of loading can cause negative changes. That’s really what rehab is all about:  finding the OPTIMAL amount of loading/stress that will cause POSITIVE changes. And this “optimal” is going to look different for everyone. 


The easiest, most simple way to reduce the risk of shin splints? 

We’ve said it once but we’ll say it again: If you're new to running or ramping up volume, take it slow. Be conservative. Listen to your body. If you start to experience pain, that's a sign that you may be doing a little too much. Try taking regular rest days, deload weeks, and dial down the overall running volume, then slowly build back up. Simple, not easy, and definitely not sexy. But it works ;) 

Reach out to today if you are experiencing shin splints and want to work with a PT who can help you manage them!

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