Triceps surae muscle, commonly known as calf muscle, is a pair of muscles (the gastrocnemius and the soleus) located at the calf. The gastrocnemius is the larger of calf muscle, attaching to the base of the femur directly above the knee. The soleus is a smaller, flat muscle that attaches to the superior posterior area of the tibia. The calf muscle is connected to the foot through the Achilles tendon. During jogging, running or jumping, the triceps surae muscle pulls the heel up to allow forward movement. It plays a major role in shock absorption as you step onto your foot. Furthermore, it also provides control as you move over your ankle from double to single leg stance.
What Causes A Calf Strain?
Numerous physical activities such as football and basketball can stretch the calf muscle past its normal length, resulting in tearing of some calf muscle fibers. A sudden pushing force can also lead to a calf strain. Calf muscle strains can vary from slight pain (grade 1) to complete tear of the calf muscle (grade 3).
Symptoms Of A Calf Strain
The typical symptom of calf strain includes pain in the back of the lower leg when playing or competing. Tightness and soreness is also felt in the calf muscle two to three days after injury. There is likely to be inflammation in the calf muscle with moderate bruising. In severe cases, there will be a sharp pain at the back of the lower leg, making it very difficult for a sufferer to even contract the calf muscle. In the case of full rupture, the affected muscle can be seen and felt to be bunched up towards the top of the calf.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you feel pain, numbness and tingling in the lower leg, you should immediately see a physical therapy expert to determine if it is truly a calf muscle strain or something else. He or she will perform a detailed physical exam to see the severity of the injury. An expert may also order magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, or calf muscle ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.
Physiotherapy makes an excellent treatment option to manage the pain of a calf strain and help you return to your highest possible function. An expert at a physiotherapy clinic will treat a minor calf strain using RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) therapy. The first and most important goal of RICE therapy is to decrease pain and reduce any swelling. An injured calf muscle will require a decreased activity level to fully heal. This means that you need to stop your physical activity that led to a calf strain and rest. Applying ice packs wrapped in a towel 2 to 3 times a day on the injured calf muscle will help decrease your pain and inflammation. Wrapping an elastic bandage on your calf also helps control pain and reduces swelling. Make sure that you ask a physical therapy expert to apply the bandage as wrapping the bandage too tight might reduce blood flow to your foot. Elevating the leg above the chest level may help reduce inflammation and pain.
Once the initial pain has been healed, a physiotherapy expert will help speed up your recovery with a combination of massage therapy, stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
Consult a physiotherapy expert at Happy Physio to have an injury diagnosed well and treated. Call (08) 9272 7359 now!