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Muscle pulls and tears commonly occur in the major muscles of the calf, the gastronemius and the soleus.

These muscles make up the large bulge in the back of the lower leg and are responsible for lifting the heel and driving you forward as you run.

Pulls and tears represent different degrees of the same injury as muscles are suddenly over-stretched beyond their limits. The degree of overstretching determines whether the muscle is pulled or actually torn.

Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. You should rest for a few days to begin with and then begin a gentle, gradual stretching program. Calf stretches are best done with the Wall Push-up. Stand with your feet about two feet away from a wall. Lean into the wall whil;e keeping your heels flat against the floor. You will feel a gentle stretch in your Achilles and calf. Hold it for 10-15 seconds then push yourself back up straight. Repeat. Once the muscle is adequately restretched, it should be restrengthened. Toe Raises are the easiest way to do this. Stand on a step with your heels hanging over the edge. Gently raise yourself on your toes then lower your heels as far as they’ll go. Repeat.

Do the Wall Push-up one leg at a time. If you stretch both legs at the same time and one calf is tighter than the other, which is likely if you have a pulled muscle, you are limiting the stretch in the good leg to what you can do with the bad leg.

As always, adequately stretching the muscle is also the best way to prevent a pull or tear.

A strained calf muscle is a partial tear of the small fibers of the calf muscles. The calf muscles are located in the back of your lower leg.

A calf strain can be caused by:

• Stretching the calf muscles beyond the amount of tension that they can withstand
• Suddenly putting stress on the calf muscles when they are not ready for the stress
• Using the calf muscles too much on a certain day
• A direct blow to the calf muscles

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury. Risk factors for calf muscle strain include:

• Fatigue
• Tight calf muscles
• Overexertion
• Cold weather

Sports that require bursts of speed, such as:

o Running
o Hurdles
o Long jump
o Basketball
o Soccer
o Football
o Rugby

Symptoms of calf muscle strain include:

• Pain and tenderness in the calff
• Stiffness in the calf muscles
• Weakness of the calf muscles
• Pain when pushing off the foot or standing on tiptoe
• Bruising on the calf (if blood vessels are broken)
• Popping sensation as the muscle tears (possibly)

The doctor at A+ clinic will ask about your symptoms and medical history, your recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The doctor will also examine your calf for:

• Tenderness and/or bruising directly over the calf muscless
• Pain when contracting the calf muscles, particularly against resistance

Muscle strains are graded according to their severity, with grade 1 being the least severe.

Grade 1

• Stretching with some microtearing of muscle fibers.
• Recovery can be complete in about 2-3 weeks.

Grade 2

• Partial tearing of muscle fibers.
• Recovery can take up to 1-2 months.

Grade 3

• Complete tearing (rupture) of muscle fibers..
• Complete recovery can take more than 3 months.

For a severe calf strain, professional and college athletes sometimes have MRI scans to help predict the length of their recovery period.

Treatment depends on the severity of the strain.

Treatment usually includes:

Rest – Do not do activities that cause pain, such as running, jumping, and weightlifting using the lower leg muscles. If normal walking hurts, shorten your stride. Do not play sports until the pain and local tenderness is gone.

Cold – Apply ice or a cold pack to the calf area for 15 to 20 minutes, 4 times a day, for several days after the injury. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin

Pain Relief Medications – Take paracetamol to help relieve pain. It is best to not take aspirin or ibuprofen during the first 24 hours if you have a lot of swelling because those meds interfere with the clotting mechanism. If you still have tenderness in the calf while taking these drugs, do not return to physical activity. Check with your doctor.

Compression – Wear an elastic compression bandage (e.g., Crape bandage) around your lower leg to prevent additional swelling. Wrap from the toes up the leg so as to not cause swelling below the wrapping. Be careful not to wrap the bandage too tightly.

Elevation – Keep your leg higher than your heart as much as possible for the first 24 hours to minimize swelling.

Heat – Do not use heat at all during the first 3 to 5 days. Use heat only when you are returning to physical activity. Then use it before stretching or getting ready to play sports.

Stretching – When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching as recommended by a health care professional. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat 6 times. Repeat stretches 4 to 6 times during the day.

Strengthening – Begin strengthening exercises for your calf muscles as recommended by a health care professional. This is very important to guard against further problems.

To reduce the chance that you will strain a calf muscle:

• Keep your calf muscles strong so they can absorb the energy of sudden physical stress.
• After a short warm-up period, stretch out your calf muscles before physical activity.
• Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities. This will decrease stress on all your muscles, including your calf muscles.

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