Over a wide variety of sporting populations, calf injuries can be some of the most common injuries. Often a time seemingly out of nowhere, calf injuries can limit your ability to participate in your chosen sport and can also limit your performance. As a result, getting the most out of your calf muscle strain rehabilitation is important for an optimal return to sport. In this blog I will run through what you should expect in your first calf muscle strain treatment session.
There are many complex and interconnecting structures at the back of your calf, but for simplicity we should focus on the two of the prime movers: your gastrocnemius and soleus. These two muscles sit just above and just below your knee joint line respectively and connect, via your Achilles tendon, to the base of your heel. There prime function is to assist in pointing your foot with in either a bent or straight knee position.
Identifying the injured area
Although they are in a similar position, injuries of these two different calf muscles can present quite differently. Have a read of these descriptions and see if any of these symptoms match your own!
- Gastrocnemius muscle injuries
- The onset of pain is often with a sudden and quick with an explosive movement. This is usually taking off from standing to a sprint like in soccer or tennis.
- The pain is often described as sharp and can be located to a well-defined area.
- Soleus muscle injuries
- Usually, these injuries occur in prolonged exercises situations, like long distance running. Rather than one instance, it is often following a gradual increase in training load or intensity.
- Can be described as a pinching feeling throughout activity, building in intensity over time.
These are very general explanations of these types of injuries and all bodies are different. It is often the case that all of your symptoms will not fall neatly into one particular category. Discuss with your therapist your individual symptoms as there may be another cause from your pain that isn’t a simple muscle strain.
Identifying the length of recovery
It is very hard to give a specific length of recovery in terms of absence of pain or return to sport. However, there are some key factors that will help your Physiotherapist determine your prognosis. Some of these factors are:
- Ability to easily put weight through your injured leg. The best test of this is how painful and the quality of your walking.
- How tender and sore the injured spot it to touch. The sorer the injured site is the more likely your rehabilitation will take slightly longer.
- Your ability to contract and use your muscle on the first treatment. Your therapist won’t ask you to perform anything too strenuous but getting a gauge on your strength is important.
One factor alone will not determine the length of your rehabilitation, but as a collection it may be able to help your therapist better plan your recovery.
After considering these factors, and beginning to rule out any other pathologies, your Sports Physio will provide with some appropriate treatment modalities and discuss a plan for your rehab. Some key things to look forward to will be:
- Education regarding your specific injury and how to best manage it at home.
- A mixture of strengthening and stretching exercise delivered in the appropriate time frame.
- Appropriately managing your exercise load whilst helping you return to sport as quick as possible.
Beyond anything the most important factor is that your program is specifically tailored to you. Also be sure to check our other Bend + Mend blogs on ways to help prevent your calf injury in the first place!