A calf strain is an injury to the muscles behind your shin that most commonly affects the gastrocnemius – calf muscle that crosses the knee joint – however, the soleus can also be affected. It most commonly occurs when the muscle gets overstretched and can be accompanied by sudden sharp pain, a ‘pop’ or tearing sensation.
How long will it be like this?
The greater the severity of the strain, the more limitations present and the time it will take to return to full activity.
A criteria-based approach is recommended as individual healing rates differ.
What can you do now or short term?
Initially, utilize compression, elevation above heart level, and gentle, tolerable movements of the injured limb early to reduce swelling and facilitate blood flow.
It is important to avoid activities that aggravate the injury however complete rest is not advised. Instead, take an active approach by performing low-impact exercises (e.g. cycling), training the upper body, and even performing unilateral strengthening for the uninjured limb.
Once adequate healing has occurred and pain has settled, a gradual loading program should be introduced to expose the calf to increasing loads and eventually loads under stretch.
How can a physiotherapist help?
Due to the high recurrence rate of calf strains, it is important to take a proactive approach to reduce its likelihood and its associated time away from work, leisure, and/or sports. Thus, continued involvement in a comprehensive exercise program that progresses calf capacity and frequent exposure to loads in lengthened states is imperative. A physiotherapist can be very helpful in the provision of guidance and an individualised exercise program.
Calf Raise progression:
Bent knee calf raise
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