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Runner's Muscles 

 

Calves

 

The calf muscle is called the Gastrocnemius. It is a two headed muscle that attaches to the Achilles  Tendon (which attaches to the heel) and it’s origin is just behind the knee, the attachment being the Femur(thigh bone)
Another muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius and also part of the calf is the Soleus.

The function of the calf is to elevate the heel, a simple move that we do thousands of times a day, so it is well worked. The movement is known as plantar flexion.

Calf muscles can become very developed when exercised, common ways runners can develop strong calf muscles are stair running, hill running or soft sand running
Unfortunately  those movements can cause Calf injuries  which often occur during acceleration or a sudden directional change. Tennis is a sport that suffers the most from calf strains or tears, however running has its fair share. They can come about from too much hill running, too much training and increase in distances and from not being warmed up.

Another cause of calf strain and calf pain is foot or arch problems.  Over pronators can have problems in the lower leg and usually require orthotics or stabilising shoes. Make sure you have your shoes fitted correctly.

Strains and tears are not the only problems that affect the poor lower leg.

Cramp
One of the most common areas of the body to cramp up are the calf muscles. A cramp is a sudden spasm within the muscle and because the gastrocnemius is quite a dense muscle the cramp here can have a very quick onset and be very painful.

There are three reasons why muscles go into cramp, the first and highly likely one is simple dehydration. Muscles like water and they like to be plumped out and cushioned by it, if the fluid is not supplied the muscle can cramp, it is an involuntary movement and can happen without warning. Try to stay hydrated especially when running in the warm weather; my suggestion is drink lots the day before you run.

Another cause of cramp is lacking electrolytes like potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, all of these can be found in a healthy diet, or if you are training for a big event or running a lot in the heat, the sports drinks or supplements can be a good replacement option. The last cause of cramping in the calf is just plain overexertion resulting in a tired muscle.

Treatment of cramps
If you get a cramp, sit or lie down and gently stretch it, the key word is gently. It is in a spasm, so don’t try and fix it, but move your foot and leg into a position that will relieve it. Also gently massage it, until it subsides. Ice packs  can also offer some relief.

 

Like many soft tissue injuries, Calf Strains or tears come in three grades

A first degree injury is damage to some of the muscle fibre, you may not feel a grade one until you have finished running and then it may present as a tightness or pain on stretching, especially if you go up high onto your toes

A second degree injury is more damage to the fibres and it may just pop and be painful and cause you to have to stop running, it will be painful to stretch and even painful to touch.

A third degree is tearing of the fibres and is very painful, you will feel an intense burning or stabbing, you will have to stop, and you may not even be able to walk. Swelling and bruising may even be evident. I remember tearing my calf on the tennis court, the pain was so intense, I was convinced that someone had stabbed me and was very surprised to look down and not see blood spurting everywhere!

Treatment of calf injuries
A calf tear can put you out of action for 4-10 weeks! So prevention is very important. If you suffer from tight calf muscles, make sure you always warm up, do your stretches and check you have the right footwear and support. If you feel a pull or strain in the calf always stop, have a stretch and then try going on slowly, if it continues walk back home.

 

Make sure you treat it immediately just to be on the safe side and to start the healing process quickly

RICE,
Rest -stop running
Ice -ice packs on and off for 10mins at a time, not just for an hour, but on and off consistently or while sitting for 48hours
Compression- Wear your skins or apply a compression bandage
Elevate- try to keep your leg raised while sitting
Anti inflammatory- Try rubbing in an anti inflammatory gel or cream to the affected area or taking the over the counter preparations for 24 hours
If third grade consult a doctor or other health professional

After 72 hours, you can try a light jog, but stop if the pain occurs again, stretch
Get back into running slowly and try shorter distances, interspersed with stretching once you have warmed up
Steer clear of speed work, hills or stairs until the calf has fully recovered
Sports massage is very effective for calf pain or injury

Calf Stretches
Below are some good static stretches for the lower leg muscles. Go into the stretch slowly and hold each stretch for 20 -30 seconds on each leg. Repeat the stretches two to three times for each leg 
     

 The best Calf stretch is done
 on a seat or a step.

 Place the forefoot on the edge of the step and slowly lower your heel, until you feel a stretch through the calf and Achilles

 For a deeper, longer stretch of the calf, try moving your other foot that is flat on the ground further forward

 

 

 

 To include the Soleus and the Achilles, in the same position, bend both knees and lower
yourself down slightly

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 
     
 
 

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