Your calf muscles are located at the back of your lower legs; they consist of the larger gastrocnemius and the smaller soleus, the former positioned on top of the latter. Gastrocnemius originates above the knee joint, while soleus originates below. Both muscles insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. A calf strain happens when a sudden contraction occurs in the calf muscles, typically while trying to accelerate from a stationary position or while lunging forward when playing racket sports, according to the Physio Advisor website. Distance running, repetitive jumping or walking excessively up hills or on uneven surfaces tend to strain the soleus, the Physio Advisor website says.
Stop running immediately if you feel a strain in your calf area. According to the website Runner's Rescue, many runners continue to run even after the initial signs of a strain. To reduce the discomfort, a runner with a strained calf tends to avoid heel strike and places more weight on the balls of the feet instead. Such an action only serves to exacerbate the calf strain, Runner's Rescue says.
Rest for a few days after a calf strain, allowing the strain to heal quicker so you can resume running. If you must run, ice the strained area for 15 to 20 minutes every 60 minutes after running, and take anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, which will reduce the inflammation and dull the pain. Also, consider wearing compression bandage around the strained calf. Keep the leg elevated as much as possible when not running.
Put specially made pads in your running shoes under your heels to shorten the calf muscle, thereby reducing some of the stress while running. Because using only one heel pad will create leg-length discrepancies, always use heel pads in both shoes to avoid creating muscle imbalances and back injuries, the Sports Injury Clinic website recommends.
Do calf-strengthening exercises and stretches three times daily. Stand behind a chair and hold the back. With your feet shoulder-width apart, elevate onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels as far up as possible without pain. Repeat 10 times. Stretch your calves by facing a wall and placing your palms against it. Move the right leg in front of the left while pushing the heel of the left leg into the floor. Hold for five seconds, repeat 10 times, then switch legs. If you do not feel a stretch in your calf, increase the step. Stop all exercises immediately if your strain gets worse.
- Photo Credit runner's legs image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com
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