by Apple Therapy

Overview: Calf muscle strains are a common running injury. They can be a painful and limiting injury that can derail a running program or routine. In a study of over 2000 runners, achilles tendinopathy and calf strain accounted for two of the most common leg injuries in runners. These injuries commonly occur in both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

How do they happen: Calf strains commonly include the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Injuries to these muscles can happen in a variety of ways including a sudden forceful contraction causing immediate pain as well as a more slowly developing entity occurring over the course of days to weeks. The severity of strains can be wide-ranging and impairment and disability for as little as days to months. Although it can be severe, oftentimes, runners experience more mild forms of calf strains associated with repetitive stress.

How does it feel: More sudden muscle strains that occur such as when jumping, accelerating, or pushing off a start line may have a sudden onset of pain and are associated with greater pain and disability. However, oftentimes pain and disability can be much lower and present as calf tightness, stiffness, and weakness that progress over days to weeks. It is beneficial to seek treatment if any of these symptoms are noticed in their early phases.

How is it treated: In the initial phases of treatment of soft tissue modalities such as Graston, Active Release Technique, and Dry Needling will be beneficial to reduce pain, inflammation, tightness. Exercises in the initial phase of recovery may include the following:

  • Plantar flexion
  • Isometrics
  • Banded PF

As pain decreases and the range of motion normalizes the goal is to gradually add increased load to the calf musculature. This progression may include:

  • Calf raises: straight and bent knee
  • Single leg calf raise
  • Plyometric activity