Sports massage can help with the treatment of shin splints by improving muscle flexibility although it is important to avoid inflamed painful areas along the bone.
The following sports massage guide for Shin Splints is intended for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any self-help treatment. Before starting any massage treatment the therapist will check for contraindications (if any apply to you, then massage is not allowed).
A lubricant is needed to allow the hands to glide smoothly. A number of massage oils are available to buy. A cheap but alternative is simple baby oil although a thicker specialist massage oil would be better. Do not use too much oil. Enough to allow for smooth, controlled movement is required but too much will mean a lack of control. A firm, flat surface to sit the patient on in order to apply pressure is important. A massage table is best although the floor can be used although it is not particularly comfortable for the therapist or patient.
The aim of effleurage techniques is to apply light stroking to warm up the area in preparation for deeper techniques. With the hands stroke lightly but firmly upwards from the top of the ankle to the knee. Always work upwards towards the heart as this is the direction of blood flow. The other way can damage veins. Then lightly bring the hands down the outside of the leg keeping them in contact but do not apply pressure.
Repeat the whole movement using slow stroking techniques, trying to cover as much of the leg as possible. Repeat this technique for about 5 to 10 minutes, gradually applying deeper pressure on the up strokes.
Stripping the muscles
With the thumb of the left hand (for a right leg) apply deep pressure to the posterior compartment muscles that can be felt at the back of the shin. Do not rub directly onto the bone. This may only increase pain and inflammation. Aim to massage the muscle, not the attachments to the bone. Apply 10 to 20 stripping techniques and alternate between cross frictions. For increased pressure, the action can be reinforced with the other hand.
Cross friction massage
Apply firm pressure across the muscle. Start at the lower third of the shin and work upwards. Again, stay away from the bone itself. The aim of this technique is to try and stretch the sheath that surrounds the muscle. This will reduce the pressure in the muscle compartment and in turn the stress on the lower leg. Apply this technique for around 5 minutes, alternating with stripping the muscle.
The whole process should not last more than half an hour. Massage therapy can be applied every day if it is performed lightly, however, deeper techniques may result in a days recovery period to allow tissues to recover.
It is important to assess the effect sports massage has both after treatment and the following day. If there an increase in pain and or inflammation then discontinue.