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Calf Muscle Strains – What You Can Do

Calf strains are injuries that are characterised by the tearing of the calf muscles. They cause pain along the back of the lower legs. The calf has two major muscles: One originates from just above the gastrocnemius (knee joint) while the other from just below the soleus (knee joint). Both of these are fitted in the heel bone through the Achilles tendon. This muscle assists in bending the knee and helping you point your toes. A calf strain can be in the range of Grade 1 – Grade 3; most calf muscle strains lie in the 1-2 grade range.

  • Grade 1 – This is a mild strain in which very few muscle fibres are torn. This causes some pain but permits full function.
  • Grade 2 – This is a moderate strain that causes tears in a number of muscle fibres and there is a moderate loss of function.
  • Grade 3 – This is a moderate strain in which there is considerable fibre rupture which also results in a major loss of function.

Calf Muscle Strain Risk

Calf muscle strains most commonly occur when the calf muscle gets contracted suddenly. This typically occurs when the patient tries to move quickly from a stationary position, either when lunging forward or jumping. A calf strain is commonly seen in athletes or footballers. In some cases, these may be caused due to overuse and the gradual wear and tear that comes with it.

It could be caused due to activities such as walking, distance running, repetitive jumping etc. In most instances, this occurs at the MTJ (musculotendinous) of the Gastrocnemius, which is about halfway between the heel and the knee.

How does a calf muscle strain manifest itself?

A very sudden pulling sensation or sharp pain can be felt in the calf muscle at the time of injury. In the case of a minor strain, the pain may be very minimal and allows for continued activity. If the case is more severe, the patient may experience muscle spasms, weakness, a severe pain as well as the inability to continue any activity. A severe calf strain might also result in inability to bear weight properly on the affected leg; sometimes, the person may end up walking with a limp. Bruising, tenderness, as well as swelling, may be present as well. In a grade 3 tear, there would be very visible deformity in the muscle.

Calf Muscle Strains – How to Prevent Them?

  • It’s important to keep the calf muscles strong so that they are able to absorb the energy of different types of sudden physical stresses.
  • Stretch the calf muscles dynamically before any physical activity. That is proper technique while participating in any sport or while working out.
  • Undertake physical fitness programs that develop strength, flexibility, and coordination.
  • Gradually increase the duration and intensity of training.
  • Allow adequate recovery time when you are training or are between workouts.
  • Wear the right type of footwear.
  • Always check your immediate sporting environment for hazards.
  • Drink a sufficient amount of water before, during as well as after a physical activity.

Managing Calf Strains

  • The immediate treatment of this type of injury is RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation for 48-72 hours post-injury. This helps reduce the damage and bleeding to the muscle tissue.
  • Keep the leg in an elevated position and apply the ice pack every two hours for about 20 minutes.
  • Apply a compression bandage to help limit swelling & bleeding in the injured area.

The rehabilitation needs to be conducted under the supervision of a skilled and professional podiatrist, for the best outcome, it also reduces the chances of recurrence. For any information on the different types of services, we at Insync Physiotherapist provide, feel free to contact us on (02) 7226 3432. You can also send us your queries via this online form and we will respond quickly and answer any queries you may have.

Thanks for reading,
Insync Physiotherapy Team
(02) 7226 3432