This feature on calf injuries is part of the series “Spotlight on Injuries”. The information provided here is a summary, so if you are experiencing calf injury pain, consult your Physio right away.
Anatomy of the calf
The calf area consists of the big calf muscle and a smaller soleus muscle which lies under the gastrocnemius. The primary function of the calf is to point the foot but also assists the hamstrings with bending the knee joint. The calf allows for the propulsion of the foot while jumping and sprinting. The soleus also points the foot but helps with long-distance running, making it more of an endurance muscle.
It occurs as a result of sudden pushing-off movements or from excessive over-stretching like in jumping activities or during activities with changes in direction.
Symptoms of a sudden calf sprain
These may vary, but generally present as a sharp pain in the calf area. Swelling and bruising may appear a few hours after injury. Calf tears can be graded from grade 1-3 depending on the severity.
Management of sprains
Sprains can be managed with the PRICE principle (PROTECT – REST – ICE – COMPRESSION and ELEVATION). A compression bandage can be applied immediately to control swelling and offer support, but should not be bound too tightly otherwise you will prevent blood flow.
Preventing calf injury
- Regular stretching of the calf muscles allows them to be more elastic.
- Regular deep muscle release can be done by your physio.
- Ensuring adequate mobility of the ankle and foot.
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