Can Massage Make Shin Splints Worse?

Shin splints – a term that can make any runner wince.

This common yet frustrating condition can put a damper on your fitness routine, causing discomfort and sometimes even pain.

But what about the role of massage in all of this?

You might be wondering, can massage make shin splints worse? Let’s dive into this topic and shed some light on it.

Key Facts:

  • Massage can potentially help reduce the pain and swelling associated with shin splints.
  • However, the effectiveness of massage can vary, and in some cases, it might make shin splints worse.
  • Professional guidance is crucial when using massage as a treatment for shin splints.
  • Shin splints are common among runners, dancers, and military recruits.
  • Typical treatments include rest, ice, and low-impact exercises.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve deeper.

In this article, we’ll explore what shin splints are, the common treatments, and the role of massage in managing this condition. 

So, stick around as we unravel the mystery of shin splints and massage.

Understanding Shin Splints

Let’s start by getting to the heart of the matter – what exactly are shin splints?

In medical terms, shin splints refer to the pain along the shin bone or tibia, which is the large bone at the front of your lower leg.

This discomfort is typically caused by stress on the shinbone and the tissues that connect the muscles to the bones.

This stress can result from overuse, such as running too much or too fast, especially on hard surfaces. 

Other factors that can contribute to shin splints include having flat feet or abnormally rigid arches, wearing worn-out or ill-fitting shoes, and not warming up before exercising.

Shin pain from shin splints - illustration style diagram

In some cases, what you think is shin splints might actually be a stress fracture — a tiny crack in the bone.

It’s important to get a proper diagnosis if your shin pain persists, as the treatment for a stress fracture is different from that for shin splints.

Remember, understanding the cause of your shin splints is the first step towards effective treatment.

Whether it’s through massage, rest, ice, or low-impact exercises, there are ways to manage shin splints and get back to your active lifestyle.

Who’s at Risk?

Certain groups are more prone to shin splints than others.

These include:

  • Runners: Due to the repetitive stress on the shins, runners often experience this condition.
  • Dancers: The intense footwork and jumping in dance can put a lot of pressure on the shins.
  • Military Recruits: The rigorous physical training can lead to shin splints.

Now that we’ve established what shin splints are and who’s most likely to experience them, let’s move on to discuss the common treatments for this condition.

Illustration of a group of runners

Understanding these treatments will provide a foundation for our main discussion – the role of massage in managing shin splints.

Common Treatments for Shin Splints

When it comes to managing shin splints, there are several tried-and-true methods that can help alleviate the discomfort.

Let’s explore these treatments:

  1. Rest: This is often the first line of defense. Taking a break from activities that cause pain gives your body a chance to heal.
  2. Ice: Applying ice packs to the affected area can help reduce swelling and numb the pain. Remember, it’s essential to wrap the ice pack in a towel to protect your skin.
  3. Low-Impact Exercises: While resting, it’s beneficial to engage in low-impact exercises. These activities, such as swimming or cycling, can keep you active without putting stress on your shins.

Now, you might be thinking, “Where does massage fit into all of this?” That’s a great question, and it’s exactly what we’re going to delve into next.

We’ll discuss how massage can potentially aid in the treatment of shin splints, and crucially, whether it can make the condition worse. 

The Role of Massage in Treating Shin Splints

Now, let’s delve into the role of massage in the context of shin splints. Massage, when done correctly, can be a powerful tool in your shin splints treatment arsenal.

Here’s how:

  • Pain and Swelling Reduction: Massage can help alleviate the pain and swelling associated with shin splints. It does this by increasing blood flow to the area, which can speed up the healing process.
  • Relaxation: A good massage can promote relaxation, not just in the targeted area, but throughout the body. This can be particularly beneficial if your shin splints are causing you stress or anxiety.
  • Releasing Muscle Knots: Shin splints can sometimes be accompanied by muscle knots. These knots, or trigger points, can cause additional discomfort. Massage can help release these knots, providing further relief.

This brings us to a crucial question: Can massage, particularly when done incorrectly, actually make shin splints worse?

Let’s explore this further in the next section.

So, Can Massage Actually Make Shin Splints Worse?

This is the question at the heart of our discussion. While massage can offer several benefits, it’s essential to understand that it’s not without potential risks.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Incorrect Technique: If a massage is performed incorrectly, it can potentially exacerbate your shin splints. This is why it’s crucial to seek professional guidance, especially if you’re new to massage.
  • Overdoing It: Just like with any treatment, it’s possible to overdo it with massage. Too much pressure or too frequent massages can lead to increased inflammation and pain.
  • Ignoring Pain: Massage shouldn’t cause significant pain. If it does, this could be a sign that the technique is wrong or that there’s another underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Ignoring this pain and continuing with the massage can make things worse.

So, while massage can be a useful tool in managing shin splints, it’s not without potential downsides.

The key is to approach it with caution and always listen to your body. 

In the next section, we’ll provide some tips on how to safely massage shin splints.

How to Safely Massage Shin Splints

If you’re considering massage as a part of your shin splints treatment plan, it’s crucial to do it safely. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Seek Professional Guidance: If possible, have your first few massage sessions with a trained massage therapist. They can show you the correct techniques and how much pressure to apply.
  • Listen to Your Body: If a massage technique causes pain, stop immediately. Massage should be soothing, not painful.
  • Start Slow: Begin with gentle pressure and gradually increase as your comfort allows. Remember, more pressure is not always better.
  • Consistency is Key: Regular, consistent massages can be more beneficial than infrequent, intense sessions.
  • Combine with Other Treatments: Massage can be a great addition to your treatment plan, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy. Continue with rest, ice, and low-impact exercises as advised by your healthcare provider.

Remember, the goal of massage is to alleviate discomfort, not cause more pain. If done correctly, massage can be a valuable tool in your shin splints recovery journey.

Massage Techniques for Shin Splints

When it comes to massage for shin splints, there are several techniques that can be beneficial.

These include:

Remember, it’s essential to seek professional guidance when considering massage as a treatment for shin splints.

A trained massage therapist can provide the most effective treatment and ensure you’re not doing anything that could potentially make your condition worse.

Self-Massage and Tools for Shin Splints

In addition to professional massage therapy, self-massage can also be a valuable tool in managing shin splints.

Here are some techniques and tools you can use:

  • Foam Roll: Using a foam roll can help alleviate shin pain. Simply place the foam roll under your calf and roll back and forth to massage the area.
  • Massage Gun: This tool can provide a deep tissue massage, helping to break up scar tissue and promote healing.
  • Self-Massage: You can use your hands to gently massage your shin and calf muscle. This can help increase blood flow to the area and promote pain relief.

Remember, while self-massage can help manage shin splints, it’s not a replacement for professional treatment.

Using a foam roller on your calf - illustration

Finally, we’ll wrap up our discussion and provide a summary of the key points we’ve covered.


We’ve covered quite a bit of ground in our discussion about shin splints and massage. Let’s summarize the key points:

  • Shin Splints: This common condition, often experienced by runners, dancers, and military recruits, causes pain along the shin bone. Rest, ice, and low-impact exercises are typical treatments.
  • Massage and Shin Splints: Massage can potentially help manage shin splints by reducing pain, promoting relaxation, and releasing muscle knots. However, the effectiveness can vary based on the technique used and the individual’s condition.
  • Potential Risks: If done incorrectly or excessively, massage could potentially make shin splints worse. It’s crucial to listen to your body and seek professional guidance.
  • Safe Massage Practices: To safely massage shin splints, start slow, be consistent, combine with other treatments, and always consult with a healthcare professional.

We hope this article has provided you with valuable insights into the role of massage in treating shin splints.

Your health and well-being are worth it!


  1. Mayo Clinic – Shin Splints: Diagnosis & Treatment: Comprehensive guide on shin splints, including causes, symptoms, and treatments.
  2. Mayo Clinic – Shin Splints: Symptoms & Causes: Detailed information on the symptoms and causes of shin splints.
  3. Healthline – How to Get Rid of Shin Splints: Stretches, Prevention Tips: Practical advice on how to manage and prevent shin splints.
  4. PainScience – Massage for Shin Splints (Tibialis Anterior): An article discussing the role of massage in treating shin splints.
  5. Vive Health – How to Use Massage to Relieve Shin Splints: A guide on how to use massage as a treatment for shin splints.

Q: Can massage make shin splints worse?

A: For the most part no, massage therapy can actually help manage shin splints and provide relief from the discomfort caused by them. BUT if done incorrectly it could make the symptoms worse.

Q: How can massage help with shin splints?

A: Massage can help relieve tightness in the calf muscles and target the deep muscles of the shin. It can also help with myofascial release, which can reduce inflammation and promote healing.

A: Sports massage is often recommended for shin splints. A sports massage therapist can use techniques such as trigger point massage, foam rolling, or even a massage gun to help alleviate the pain caused by shin splints.

Q: Can self-massage be effective for shin splints?

A: Yes, self-massage techniques can be effective for managing shin splints. Using a massage ball or applying gentle pressure with your hands can help relieve tension in the affected muscles.

Q: What causes shin splints?

A: Shin splints are often caused by overuse or repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues surrounding it. They can also be caused by tightness in the muscles of the leg or poor biomechanics.

Q: Can massage help prevent shin splints?

A: While massage alone may not prevent shin splints, it can help reduce the risk by addressing muscle tightness and promoting overall muscle health. Regular massage therapy as part of a comprehensive training program can be beneficial in preventing injuries.

Q: Can massage worsen shin splints if done incorrectly?

A: If done incorrectly or with too much pressure, massage may aggravate the symptoms of shin splints. It is important to consult a trained massage therapist who has experience in treating shin splints to ensure the massage is performed correctly.

Q: Is there a specific massage technique for shin splints?

A: While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, a therapist may use techniques such as myofascial release massage, targeted shin massage, or even incorporate tens therapy to help relieve pain and promote healing.

A: Yes, massage therapy can be beneficial for conditions such as medial tibial stress syndrome (also known as shin splints), anterior shin splints, or even compartment syndrome if the tightness and pain are caused by the same underlying issues.

Q: How long does it take for massage to show results in managing shin splints?

A: The duration of the treatment and the number of sessions required may vary depending on the severity of the shin splints. Some individuals may experience relief after just one session, while others may require multiple sessions for significant improvement.