Calf strains are a common injury for those involved in running sports, particularly those with a stop-start nature. The calf is a broad term for the area on the back of the lower leg. Though consisting of several muscles, the most commonly injured are the Gastrocnemius (acting on both the knee and ankle joints) and the Soleus (acting on the ankle joint only).
Common symptoms indicating a strained calf are:
- sudden pain (often sharp) in the back of the leg, commonly midway between the knee and ankle.
- the appearance of bruising and/or swelling in the calf, often extending towards the ankle.
- an inability to stand on your toes and experiencing pain with toe-off when walking.
- reproduction of pain when contracting the calf muscle against resistance.
What To Do In The Early Stages
As with most acute muscular injuries, the RICE principle can help to settle your symptoms and help to improve the progression of your rehab.
- R - Rest
- avoiding excessive walking or vigorous activities that would work your calf muscle.
- I - Ice
- application of an ice pack to the back of the leg for 20 minutes following the injury. This may be repeated every 2-4 hours for the first 48-72 hours.
- C - Compression
- application of a compression bandage, tight sock pulled up, or even some compression tights.
- E - Elevation
- placing the affected leg up on a seat to aid with fluid return.
Early assessment of your injury is important to rule out any significant injuries that may cause longterm issue if not addressed appropriately. We recommending consulting with your GP or your local Physiotherapist to assess the site for any major concerns. The prescription of anti-inflammatory medication may be made by your GP or your physiotherapist may prescribe crutches or a 'Moon Boot' if your symptoms are significant.
Most calf strains are resolved and back to normal activities in approximately 6 weeks. This time frame varies greatly, however the prescription of an appropriate rehab program can help get you on the field sooner. Your physiotherapist may focus on
- controlling your pain
- promoting pain free knee and ankle movement
- introducing a graded strengthening program for the calf
- educating you about an appropriate loading program for your calf
- addressing any underlying factors that may leave you susceptible to issues in the future (muscle strength imbalances, inappropriate warm-up habits, poor gluteal strength, etc..)