You may be experiencing calf strain, and rightfully so as a greater emphasis on physical fitness is one of the defining features of today’s modern environment. Everywhere you look, people’s lifestyles have become more and more open to ideas that involve keeping fit and burning fat. Even the less young and active among us have taken to taking up walking and jogging more regularly, as well as one or two lower-impact but high-cardio sports like squash or badminton.
While its social-level popularity is not in doubt, on an individual level, the drive toward fitness is something that can be interrupted and even stopped long-term if one is not careful. For example, when we start to feel pain in our pursuit for better fitness, we can find ourselves inconvenienced or hurt enough for the temptation to stop to become too strong to ignore. The best way to avoid such an unfortunate eventuality is to educate ourselves about how our body works, so that we can figure out how to deal with such ailments as they come.
What is a Calf Strain?
Calf strain, for example, has stopped many a workout and caused considerable inconvenience to get in the way of many a person’s desire to be fit. If this sounds a bit farfetched, consider that we might be taking for granted just how integral our calves are to even the most basic movement – walking, climbing stairs, getting up to stand or squatting down to sit, it’s all there. Is it any wonder, then, that many tend to drop out of their active routines once this unexpected type of pain hits and sidelines them from doing the most basic things?
Calf pain tends to come about as a result of tearing in the muscles in the rear portion of your lower leg. This may include damage to the soleus muscle, which is the smaller muscle found lower in your leg, or the larger gastrocnemius muscle at the back of the leg. More specifically, calf strain tends to affect the muscular tendinuous junction, which is the point where the Achilles tendon meets those muscles. The damage tends to come about as a result of overstretching the calf muscles, which can be seen in sudden jumps or shifts in direction.
Watch Out for These Calf Strain Symptoms:
The symptoms are variable from case to case, but usually the most common signal is a sharp pain in that area of your leg – the muscle in your calf may be painful and tender to the touch, or may swell up and have bruises. The degree of intensity of the pain may also vary from person to person depending on the severity of the tear, but there is sure to be some discomfort at the least and severe pain impeding walking at the most.
Calf muscle tears are measured in three grades according to severity.
- Grade 1 has up to 10% of the muscle fibers damaged by the injury, and may result in aching in the calf muscles up to five days after the injury. A person is usually able to play through the pain but will experience mild discomfort.
- Grade 2 is already quite severe, with up to 90% of the muscle fibers seeing tears and damage, and this cannot be ignored. There is a sharp pain in the back part of the leg, and will cause significant pain even when walking. The calf may swell and sport bruising, and flexing the foot (as in to step or push off) will cause pain as well. Aching in the calf may last up to ten days.
- A near-complete rupture of the calf muscle, Grade 3 is painful enough to stop a person in his tracks, almost literally –the pain is so great a person will not be able to walk. There is expected to be even more bruising and swelling on the calf, and there may even be deformity of the muscle.
How Should One Deal With Calf Strain?
As with any muscle injury, it is important to allow the body to have an opportunity to repair itself. This will require a number of things.
- Rest is essential. Just like many other injuries, it’s crucial to stop using the affected muscle for as long as possible. Keeping the affected muscle – the calf in this case – on ice and in an elevated position will help reduce the pain and swelling, and cold therapy should be of help in arresting internal bleeding if it has occurred. Put ice on it for up to 15 minutes every hour.
- Compression will be a big help as well. Try a sleeve or compression bandage to help bring the swelling down, but try to avoid keeping it on for more than 10 minutes as prolonged restriction of blood flow can result in more damage. Wear CopperJoint Calf Compression Sleeves for best results.
- In some particularly severe cases your doctor may recommend ultrasound therapy. This can help reduce swelling and pain, and as the injury heals it can end up stimulating blood flow in the muscle.
- Calf massage may also be prescribed. This can be helpful in loosening up the muscle and stretching it, smoothing out any knots and lumps. Be sure to get some help with this as if improperly done this can cause more damage.
- Calf stretching exercises, done sparingly and as directed, can help complement the calf massage and result in muscle that is more pliable and more capable of getting back into comfortable use. Many forget the importance of keeping the muscle loose during rehabilitation and just wait for the pain to disappear, but if you keep the muscle flexible you reduce your chances of re-injury.
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