Shin Splint Solutions: Essential Tips for Rehab and Injury Prevention in Runners

Discover research-backed ways to rehab or prevent shin splints!
Written by
Christian Peters
Published on
Feb 20, 2024

Shin Splint Solutions: Essential Tips for Rehab and Injury Prevention in Runners

The running journey invites not only the highs of running - enoying the outdoors, pushing your limits, reaching new personal bests - but also the occasional hurdle of injury or pain. One of the most common injuries related to running is shin splints. This common discomfort, manifesting along the front of your tibialis anterior (or shinbone), can stop your running progress. But don’t worry! There are clear ways to both prevent and overcome this painful condition.

This guide covers the cause of shin splints and shares effective strategies for both rehabilitation and prevention. Whether you're a seasoned marathon participant or running for the first time, understanding the essentials of managing shin splints is crucial for a seamless, enjoyable running experience. Journey with us on the path to recovery and continue moving towards your next PR.

Understanding Shin Splints

Shin splints, known medically as "medial tibial stress syndrome", present in two forms: (1) anterior shin splints and (2) posterior shin splints. 

Image from: Petersen Physical Therapy

(1) Anterior shin splints surface along the tibia's outer edge, often due to increased stress on the tibialis anterior muscle. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and sometimes swelling in the lower leg's front, influenced by factors such as overpronation, unsuitable footwear, or sudden spikes in workout intensity.

Musculature of the Anterior Lower Leg (Image Source: TeachMe Anatomy)
Pronation & Supination of the Foot (Image Source: Healthline)

(2) Conversely, posterior shin splints appear on the shinbone's inner edge, affecting muscles and tendons near the leg's inner side. This variant is typically associated with issues in the posterior tibialis tendon, essential for foot arch support. Symptoms include discomfort and inflammation in the shin's inner aspect, with flat feet, muscle imbalances, or lack of proper warm-up as common culprits. 

Posterior Tibialis Tendon (Image Source: Feet Feet Podiatry)

Distinguishing between the two types of shin splints is key to creating tailored rehab approaches and avoiding ongoing pain.

The Role of Eccentric vs. Concentric Strength Training in Managing Shin Splints

Both recovery from and the prevention of shin splints depend on prioritizing eccentric strength training. Understanding the difference between concentric and eccentric muscle contractions is pivotal. 

Concentric contractions occur as a muscle shortens under a force, such as during the push-off phase of running or the lifting of a dumbbell during a bicep curl.

Eccentric contractions, however, happen as a muscle elongates while still generating force, like when lowering the foot during a calf raise or lowering the dumbbell back to your hip during a bicep curl.

This distinction between eccentric and concentric is vital, as muscle lengthening (eccentric phase) over shortening (concentric phase) is more effective for shin splint management. Interested in learning more? This article gives a short in-depth explanation of eccentric versus concentric muscle contractions and the roles both play in exercise and rehab.

Recommended Exercises

Rather than pinpointing specific exercises, focusing on training that emphasizes eccentric muscle contractions for the affected muscle groups is beneficial. Understanding the four main movement patterns of the ankle joint/foot can also help with rehab.

Image Source: Braceworks

(1) Posterior Shin Splints: Tailoring your routine to address posterior shin splints? Concentrate on exercises that involve eccentric ankle plantarflexion and inversion. 

(2) Anterior Shin Splits: Target the tibialis anterior through movements promoting dorsiflexion and eversion. Discover our top recommended exercises both of these conditions below:

Posterior Shin Splint Exercise:

Anterior Shin Splint Exercise:

Next Steps

For personalized, professional guidance in managing shin splints, consider scheduling a one-on-one physical therapy session with a Vulcan Performance and Therapy expert in Birmingham, Alabama. Our team is here to support your recovery journey, tailoring treatment plans to your unique needs. If you have more questions you can email Christian by clicking here!

Schedule Your Appointment Today!

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