Shin Splints – Compartment Syndrome

By February 7, 2013Pain Info, Blog

Written By: Arny Warkentin RMT

Leg Pain? Must Be Shin Splints!

Most people at some point or another heard the term shin splints. It is an incredibly common diagnosis for lower leg pain caused by overuse. Often the cure is to cut back on the activity which causes the pain and wait for it to go away. For some people this may work, but for others this isn’t an option.

Used as a catch-all for lower leg pain, often the diagnosis says little about what is actually going on and what to do about it.

In this post I will focus on one of the common issues causing shin splints and go into other causes in further posts.

Compartment Syndrome

This condition is caused by “an increase in pressure within the compartments of the lower leg”. By compartments what is meant is the different fascial compartments which separate different groups of muscles in the lower leg.

For the sake of this post we will assume the issue is chronic (an acute occurrence is more severe and requires medical attention). Chronic compartment syndrome has a gradual onset over time and occurs frequently with exercise.

Symptoms of this condition begins during exercise (usually at the same point each time) and is relieved by rest. This is due to the increased blood flow to the area which cannot be accommodated for, due to fascial tightness. Symptoms present as an ache and tightness over the entire compartment.

Common causes of this condition include:

  •  muscle imbalance
  • muscle tightness
  • improper footwear
  • fascial restrictions

Why can Massage Therapy help?

Through proper assessment we can determine the specific muscle imbalance, tightness or restriction involved in this condition and relieve symptoms through the use of:

  •  Myofascial Release Techniques
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
  • Swedish Massage
  • Joint Mobilizations

These techniques would be used to correct imbalances and restrictions, as well as improve circulation away from the area. Combined with effective home-care instructions, Massage Therapy can be an effective treatment for chronic compartment syndromes.


Rattray, F., Ludwig, L. (2000). Clinical Massage Therapy. Toronto, Canada: Talus     Incorporated.

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