Shin Splints: Our Massage Therapist’s Take


You know the basics about shin splints; now read up on Balance Orlando’s own Mimi Ravndal‘s best practices for alleviating pain and healing this common injury.

Although you can get shin splints from one über-intense bout of exercise, they occur more often as a repetitive injury that continues over the course of several exercise sessions.

Once the pain settles in over the course of time and becomes more chronic, it may take a couple weeks or so of rest and/or super toned-down workouts followed by slowly ramping back up your exercise volume and intensity.

The good news is that a full recovery is likely as long as you listen to your body and take care of yourself.

Mimi’s Tips

1.       REST

You absolutely must rest. The amount and intensity of your rest depends on your injury.  If it’s bad you may not be able exercise at all until you’ve healed. This is Absolute Rest. Sometimes you can just reduce your work load for a while to half workouts (or something like that). This is Relative Rest.

Pro tip: you may be able to swim or stationary bike to keep up your cardio.

You may want to consider erring on the side of caution by taking some time off to really rest, at least at first.   Once you are not experiencing pain, you can ease back in. You must gradually ramp up the intensity and duration of exercise over the course of a couple weeks or so (or longer). Do not get excited and jump in at your normal 110%.
Ramping up your work load over time is an important part of not getting shin splints in the future.  Remember:  it’s an “overuse injury.”

REST EXAMPLE:  You notice that your shins have been hurting because you’ve been running triple your normal distance five days a week on hilly pavement instead of your normal jog on flat dirt trails. You take a week off from all running activities, but do some swimming to stay active. You start going for walks on week two. You go for short jogs on week 3 and slowly ramp up your intensity, distance, and frequency over the next several weeks.  Your time periods will vary.


Ice and elevation both reduce inflammation. They are good options for both treating and preventing pain. They can both be done at the same time. They can both be done while you watch videos or read a book. They’re both cheap.

If you feel shin pain, use ice for the first two days. Ice three times a day for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
After two days, contrast therapy is good: heat the muscles with something hot (heating pad) to get them ready for normal activity in the morning, and then ice them later in the day before bed. Obviously, if you work out again with pain, you start over with just ice for two days.

Also, you can also use ice and elevation post-exercise for prevention as well as treatment.


Compression both during activity and during rest can reduce inflammation and may help a with pain and recovery time. You can find tape or compression sleeves easily.  Use your Google.

4.       NSAIDS

Using over-the-counter pain medicine daily is probably bad for you.[1] NSAIDS do reduce inflammation in the short term. However, shin splints tend to be a chronic problem that can last a while, especially if you are just ignoring them to make it through the season. This means that you’d have to take NSAIDS all the time to treat the chronic pain. Don’t do this; don’t take OTC pain medication daily. Fix the problem.

5.       MASSAGE/BODYWORK : Muscle Tightness

The muscles on either side of your shin can be like steel cables. Regular massage or Rolfing® can really loosen the area up and give relief. You can also self-massage in the morning (or whenever). Just start poking around next to your shins and you’ll probably find some spots that light up. You can alternate between small circles with your thumbs and long strokes down the length of the muscle.


PRONATION:  Rolling your ankles inward (see pic above) can and does contribute to shin splint problems as well as other injuries.

MUSCULAR IMBALANCES:  Same for muscular imbalances which can also be caused by poor body mechanics.

Structural Integration (Rolfing®) is excellent for identifying and correcting poor body mechanics, some of which you may not even be aware of.

FOOTWEAR/INSERTS: Having good arch support helps with body mechanics but it can be overdone.

Inserts can be good during stressful activities, but if you rely too much on them, the arches of your feet will get weak and that’s not good. Developing good body mechanics is key.

HIGH HEELS:  Ladies, excessive high heel shoe wearing can make one more vulnerable to shin splints due to the constant shortening of the lower leg muscles.

[1] (“Each year, the side effects of long-term NSAID use cause nearly 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths. More people die each year from NSAIDs-related complications than from AIDS and cervical cancer in the United States.”)

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