9 Common Muay Thai Injuries: Prevention & Recovery Tips

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Common muay thai injuries

What are the most common Muay Thai injuries you ask? Some of the most common injuries include bruised ribs, knees, shins, and knuckles. Strained muscles and sprained joints are also common as are blisters on the bottom of your feet.

Like all combat sports, there is always a risk for injury, but as you’ll see, Muay Thai training really isn’t as dangerous as you may think. 

We’ll get into all of the most common injuries and ways you can prevent them from happening and ways to heal them if and when they do.

Most Common Muay Thai Injuries

Let’s start with the obvious…

Bruised Knuckles

This isn’t much of a big deal in my opinion. It’s possible you may bruise your knuckles when punching but boxing gloves are largely there to protect your hand and knuckles. 

Your hands may feel a bit sore after practicing punches but the soreness will likely go away quickly. Like many on this list, this is one of those beginner injuries that go away quick. 

It’s just the way it is at the beginning, as with many of these injuries listed below. In the beginning, you may experience some bruising or soreness from the new impacts from your body but your skin and surrounding muscle will quickly adapt and harden.

If you experience this, it may also be that your hand wrap and glove size is wrong… Or that you’re the next Sakmongkol Sithchuchok. 

  • Common causes: Punching with outside knuckles and being so cool that you can punch really hard. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Could train with 16 oz gloves and make sure that your hand wraps are adequately protecting your knuckles. 

Sprained Wrists

Especially at the beginning, you experience sprained wrists from poor punching technique. Even with hand wraps tightly covering your wrist, it’s actually quite easy to twist your wrist when delivering a poorly angled punch. 

This is especially true when in combination with poorly wrapped hands. 

Regardless though, to avoid sprained wrists you need to make sure that you’re using proper punching technique for various angles. Generally, your hand should stay in line with your forearm.

  • Common causes: Improper punching technique. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Get back to basics and apply ice to reduce swelling. 

Bruised Ribs

Body strikes can be pretty common. Even if you’d don’t often spar, there is a chance that at some point your trainer will attempt to harden your body through body conditioning work.

This can be everything from hitting a medicine ball into your stomach as you lie down or asking you to hang from monkey bars as he repeatedly punches you in the ribs. 

To prevent this, you could ask your sparring partners or trainers to go lighter on you. Or you can continue and accept it as the nature of the beast.

If you take the second route especially, it may sound ridiculous but it’s actually good to make sure you are eating enough food to keep your ribs protected with a layer of fat or muscle padding. That way, at least you’re more likely to experience a bruise and not a break. 

If you do suffer bruised ribs, you’ll definitely want to take some time off hard training to let your ribs heal.

Personally, there are few things worse than bruised ribs because it affects your comfort when sleeping and even breathing in some cases.

So unless you’re training to be a professional fighter I’d recommend avoiding training would cause it.

  • Common causes: Sparring (knees, punches, kicks), and body conditioning workouts.
  • Prevention and Treatment: Eat, pray, love. And take many days off training.

Shin Splints (Beat-up Shins)

Obviously, as you kick, you’ll experience bruised shins.

Anyone training Muay Thai will experience some degree of injury in their lower extremities.

Shin splints though, refer to the pain some experience from inflammation and micro-tears in the muscles and tissue around the shin.

Note that this is different from a stress fracture though. That refers to small cracks or breaks in the actual tibia shin bone. Broken bones shouldn’t be expected when training though. 

And both types of injuries are quite common among runners, military, and martial artists who train hard.

To avoid shin splints you may want to rest when they occur but then once healed, slowly but surely train with harder pads. It’ll be an iterative process but eventually, your shins will desensitize and become stronger. 

And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, check out our complete guide on Muay Thai shin conditioning.

If you spar though, make sure to use shin guards. 

  • Common causes: Running, sparring, pad work (with hard pads), a lot of jump rope, or thinking kicking banana trees will strengthen your shins.  
  • Prevention and Treatment: Rest, ice, continuously upgrading to harder pads, and good quality running shoes and correct form for your runs. 

Blisters on the bottom of your feet

When you kick or punch in Muay Thai the friction from pivoting your feet will cause blisters.

The extent and severity of these blisters usually depend on the surface material of the mat you train on.

Don’t worry though, if you train 2-3 times per week, the skin on the bottom of your feet will harden as it becomes accustomed to your striking pivot. 

  • Common causes: Friction from pivoting while striking and rough mats. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Let particularly deep blisters heal. And if you must use rough mats, you’ll just have to continue training on them until your skin hardens. Shouldn’t take long. 

Knee Strain and Bruising

Whenever you are practicing knees in Muay Thai there is a good chance that your knees will at the very least bruise a bit.

Since it’s not so common for adults in everyday life to use their knees as a weapon, as you begin training, even kneeing pads will cause slight bruising. 

A knee strain can also occur if kicking with poor technique. If the technique isn’t corrected, consistent abnormal rotation of the knee joint will eventually cause knee strain and joint issues.  

Like knuckle bruising, a knee bruise is a very minor injury and won’t last long as your knee skin and muscle harden through practice. 

There is serious danger in a knee strain though and poor kicking technique can actually cause ligament damage. 

  • Common causes: Inexperience with knees, or worse improper kicking techniques causing joint strain. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Bruising will be a necessary ‘evil’ as your body adapts to Muay Thai techniques and training. If you feel knee strain though, absolutely take time off training. 

Ankle and Foot Sprains

Whenever you move around, there’s always a small chance you could twist your ankle or suffer foot injuries.

When training Muay Thai risk of injuries is obviously much higher. A sprained ankle can happen when running, jump rope when utterly exhausted (not that I’ve done this;), sparring, or even when doing pad work. 

There may also be times when you kick and your foot is not straight. This may cause you to hit at a weird angle for your toes and foot causing discomfort. 

To prevent this you should incorporate calf raises to your workouts to strengthen your calf muscles and ankles. 

  • Common causes: An abnormal ankle twist or foot placement. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Be on your Ps and Qs how and where you step. Apply lots of ice to reduce swelling if you do experience ankle injuries and foot sprains though. 

Strained Neck

Due to the clinching aspect of Muay Thai it’s possible a training partner or opponent could pull on your neck hard enough to cause an injury.

To avoid this or at least reduce the resulting pain, make sure to add neck rotations to your warmup regimen.

You may also want to strengthen your neck muscles through workouts in the gym.

Your neck and overall quality of life will thank you.

If you’re really adventurous, you can even try to consciously strengthen your neck through functional clinch exercises with someone you trust. Drills solely focused on practicing neck pulling and clinch techniques.

  • Common causes: Inadequate warm-up and unnecessarily strong neck pulling. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Neck stretches, neck strengthening exercises, and heat pads if and when the muscle does feel strained. 

Head Injuries

As a striking sport, there’s always a risk you may receive a head injury either during a training session or competition.

It really isn’t so common for Muay Thai enthusiasts simply training for the fun of it though… Unless you come across an unruly sparring partner – or worse – unruly trainer. 

If sparring with other non-professions for instance, it is possible a friendly spar of 20-30% power could devolve into a heated exchange that could cause head injuries.

All it takes is for one sparring partner to sense that the other is trying harder and it’ll quickly become a shot-for-shot pissing match. 

There’s really no good cause for this though and should be avoided at all costs. 

  • Common causes: A training partner or trainer going postal and losing control while sparring. 
  • Prevention and Treatment: Being smart, aware, and ensuring your gym doesn’t accept dangerous, stupid behavior. 

Muay Thai Recovery Tips

Now’s time for the goods.

Here are the ways you can and should relieve the wear and tear caused by Muay Thai training and competition. 


In most of the cases with Muay Thai injuries, you can’t go wrong with ICER.

The ICER method is quick and simple to use for all soft-tissue and bone-to-bone injuries:

  • Ice the injured area.
  • Compress the area that’s injured with pressure.
  • Elevate it.
  • Rest until the area can properly heal. 

Muscle Rollers

If you live in Asia it is quite easy and affordable for you to get regular massages.

This is great for relieving muscle soreness but for those in the West though this may be less realistic. In that case, you should invest in some muscle rollers.

There are different kinds of muscle rollers available and many can do a surprisingly good job with tension. 

Ice Treatment

After the injury, and the days following it need be, apply an ice pack every 2-3 hours, for between 10-20 minutes. This will help reduce swelling and relieve inflammation. 

If it’s a sprain of some kind you should make sure to compress the injured area with an elastic bandage or compression sock and keep it elevated to relieve pressure.

Heat Treatment

As swelling soothes, you may want to apply heat to the injured area via a heat pad or tiger balm.

This heat is particularly useful with strains such as neck strains and will promote blood flow to the injured area to help speed up healing.

In Conclusion

There you have it. We shared a list of common Muay Thai injuries, plus the ways you can prevent them from ever happening or how to heal if they do. 

Muay Thai is a sport that can absolutely be dangerous but it can also be quite safe when done right. Even kids Muay Thai can be a healthy option.

Just make sure to stay smart and you’ll be fine. 

To learn more about how to avoid injuries by learning the Muay Thai stance.

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