It’s not only runners who injure their calf muscles. We’ve seen patients who have torn muscles from simple slips/trips, riding skateboards, high heels, dancing, trampolining… the options are endless. A calf injury can be debilitating and often reoccur. Getting a thorough and accurate diagnosis is the best way to prevent ongoing issues.
Your calf is made up of more than one muscle.
Gastrocnemius. Both a medial and lateral section, it is the most easily recognised muscle in your calf.
Soleus. The deep calf muscle, most commonly injured of all the calf muscles.
Plantaris. A muscle that runs between the gastrocnemius and soleus. 10% of people don’t even have one! It is the least injured muscle but can be the most painful.
These muscles help move your ankle, your gastrocnemius helps to move your knee too.
Injuries occur suddenly, from sharp movements or as you fatigue, or even gradually over time. They can feel like a slowly building tightness or even like you’ve been shot by a sniper! Injury can result in a loss of power or pain inhibited dysfunction.
As you can now understand an accurate diagnosis is paramount. The muscles all do such different jobs, rehabilitation needs to be specific. In an ideal World everyone with a calf “tweak” would have an MRI. This would show us exactly where the damage is and to what extent it has occurred. Then we could answer the number one question (how long is it going to take) with complete unwavering confidence!
Where do injuries occur?
Tears can occur in the belly of the muscle, where muscle attaches to tendon or even in the outer covering of the muscle. Each has a very different healing time and subsequent return to sport time frames (from 0 missed days to 6 weeks of missed play!).
So, what to do?
At the onset of pain, cease activity and rest. Perform acute injury management, ice, compress and elevate. Physio initially helps with improving pain-free function using tape, heel wedges where applicable and advice regarding footwear. We introduce muscle load isometrically (so the muscle doesn’t change length) before adding functional re-training. One of the most important aspects of calf injury rehab is to return the muscle to sport-specific function. No point re-training a slow calf raise if you want to be able to run.
Finally, know that calf pain can occur for a multitude of reasons. It is a common place for back pain to refer and can be a sign of vascular compromise. Another good reason to get it checked.
#physiocronulla #calfpain #rehabilitation #loveyourlife