I’ve got a nagging injury right now that is not only slowing me down, but making me a little aggravated. A couple of weeks ago I felt this sharp pain in my calf in the middle of teaching a class. I immediately felt the sharp pain, so kept the class going, but stopped the jumping and running and impact moves for myself. At home I immediately did the whole RICE thing. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) Of course, I thought I’d be miraculously healed the next day . . . Not.
I tried to be patient and tried to keep any movement to low impact. That worked and things were feeling much better, until today. One wrong move and Bam! – I’m back where I started. Arrrgghhh. I know it’s a calf strain, and I know I just really have to stay off of it and I know it needs to take time to heal. Nothing about any of that sounds fun to me.
So, while not doing any activity to use my calf muscle, I can at least share with you a little about this little injury. Just in case you ever feel that PANG in your muscle and know something isn’t quite right. . .
The calf muscles consist of the gastrocnemius muscle which is the big muscle at the back of the lower leg and the soleus muscle which is a smaller muscle lower down in the leg and under the gastrocnemius. The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two muscles which attaches above the knee joint and inserts into the heel bone via the achilles tendon. The Soleus attaches below the knee joint and then also to the heel via the achilles. Either of these two muscles can be strained.
A calf strain usually occurs at the muscular tendinous junction where the muscles meet the achilles tendon. If the Soleus muscle is damaged there may be pain lower in the leg and also pain when you contract the muscle against resistance with the knee bent. A calf muscle tear is graded from 1 to 3, with grade 3 being the most severe.
I initially think I just had a Grade 1 calf strain, which is a minor tear with up to 10% of the muscle fibers effected. I’m trying to keep it at a Grade 1 and not make it worse! However, after today it may have gotten a little worse . . . Grade 2 symptoms will be more severe than a grade one with up to 90% of the muscle fibers torn. A sharp pain at the back of the lower leg will be felt with significant pain walking. There is likely to be swelling in the calf muscle with mild to moderate bruising. There may be tightness and aching in the calf muscle for a week or more. Grade 3 symptoms will be severe immediate pain at the back of the lower leg. There will be considerable bruising and swelling appearing and the athlete will be unable to even contract the calf muscle. In the case of a full rupture, often there is deformity where the muscle can be seen to be bunched up towards the top of the calf. A grade three is a near, or complete rupture of the muscle. That sounds just awful, doesn’t it?
So, what to do??? “Applying R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is essential. Cold therapy should be applied as soon as possible to help to quickly stop any internal bleeding. Ice can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour initially reducing frequency as pain and swelling goes down.Use a compression bandage, calf support or sleeve. A compression bandage can be applied immediately to help stop swelling but it should only be applied for 10 minutes at a time as restricting blood flow completely to the tissues could cause more damage.”
After the initial acute stage of the injury, there are other things to do to help with recovery. Here are some things I am using:
My physical therapist did some ultrasound therapy on the calf and then gave me a wonderfully painful calf massage. This helps stimulate blood flow to the muscles – OUCH! But it helped so much! Afterwards I began massaging it myself and stretching it. The photo shows a calf stretcher I have as well as a massage stick that helps roll over the tight knots. (Don’t mind my pup Lu who is keeping guard on what she considers her own toys!) The sports massage can help by stimulating blood flow and the stretching helps loosen tight knots and lumps and bumps in the muscles. CREDIT
Once I get over the injury part I will have to keep stretching that calf to make sure I don’t re-injure it. I also need to make sure to NOT jump right back when it starts to feel better. That is, I need to learn from today and REST this darn muscle so I’m not hobbling around like an old woman for the next few days.
Dealing with injuries is just part of life and, especially part of being active. One problem with being active, though, is that it makes dealing with injuries even worse. When you are used to moving and staying in motion, when your schedule has exercise penciled in like an appointment, when you actually work in the field of fitness, being sidelined by an injury is just plain aggravating. So, this time, I’m trying to practice what I preach and be patient, rest, be smart and work on the recovery.
How do you deal with injuries? Ever had a calf strain? Any tips for a speedier recovery? What is your worst injury?
Enjoy Your Day!