With long distance running marathons and triathlons becoming increasingly popular as well as a increasing array of high intensity exercise classes like Zumba, Barry’s Bootcamp, HulaFIt, calf muscle injures are seen more commonly.
Calf strain occurs when the muscle at the back of the lower leg becomes damaged or inflamed due to excessive strain or force being placed on the calf muscle. These injuries often arise from sports that involve repeated jumping or change of direction as well as explosive sprinting or long distance running.
Calf muscle tears get more common as we get older due to the loss of elasticity in our muscles and tendons. Soft tissue injuries get more common if you over train and don’t warm up or cool down correctly. Often injuries can start with micro-tears in the calf muscle and Achilles tendon and this in turn can result in a to a complete tear or a painful tendonitis.
Patients are likely to feel aching and stiffness which becomes more apparent first thing in the morning and often the calf will feel weak, making the patient unable to resume activity and sometimes bear weight correctly resulting in a limp.
If you’ve been inactive for an extended period of time, to prevent injuries you need to start off very slowly and gently. Start with non-ballistic exercises such as calf raises and progress the program to eventually include ballistic exercises, maybe 3 months later.
Warming up and stretching after exercise is always recommended but be careful not to overstretch or put excess force on calf muscles. Stretch until there’s light tension in the muscles, taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling. Hold that position for 15-to-30 seconds, relax and repeat up to four times. Stay still and don’t bounce during stretching. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain; ease the stretch until it is comfortable.