The back of the leg is commonly referred to as the calf. Technically the “calf” is composed of two muscles called the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Together they (along with the tiny plantaris muscle) connect to the heel via the achilles tendon. The gastrocemius is the more superficial of the two muscles. It travels from the heel up across the knee joint and attaches on the large thigh bone called the femur. The soleus is underneath the gastrocnemius and connects the heel bone to the tibia or lower leg bone. Together these two muscles make the toes point down in a motion called plantarflexion, the movement you make when you push off the ground, push on the gas pedal in your car or the pedals of your bicycle. It is all the same muscle bulk working hard to help you achieve your goals.
Now a strain refers to a pulling or stretching injury to a muscle or tendon. When a strain occurs, the muscle fibers have been pulled so far apart that they may be torn, either at the microscopic level or in a way that injures the integrity and function of the muscle itself.
Common ways to strain your calf include pushing off the ground suddenly from a stationary position or even activities like stepping rapidly up onto a curb, when you only get your toes on the curb and your ankle drops down. Such activities place large stresses on the muscles and can overstretch the muscle fibers quickly.
Now first things first. You might have a calf strain if you develop pain in the back of the leg after changing up your workout routine or any of the movements described above. If you think you have a calf strain you should get seen by your primary doc’ or come see us and make sure your diagnosis is correct since more serious problems can masquerade as a calf strain.
If you do have a strain, then after a brief period of PRICE (protect, rest, ice, compress, elevate) it will be time to start a progressive therapy program focused on strengthening the calf and accelerating healing thru soft tissue work and manual therapy. We have great workouts to help you get back to sport on our Store section. In addition to exercise and manual therapies we also see great results with neurofunctional/electro-
acupuncture. If these therapeutics are not sufficient to get you back to sport and pain free living, then some more experimental therapies like platelet rich plasma can be considered.
To learn more about calf strains or to schedule a consultation, contact us.