One of the main things people (and some of our patients at Paul Gough Physio Rooms) remember with calf strain and pain is the feeling of being shot in the back of the leg…
Calves can tear and snap with very little prior warning and will often as a result of being overly tired, dehydrated or from running up (and down) a route which includes a few hills or banks.
I recently received this message from one of my patients, Nick aged 41 from Hartlepool:
“Paul – I was doing the Tees Pride 10K run on Sunday morning just gone when suddenly my calf popped, and it felt like I’d been shot. There was no prior warning or stiffness. I hobbled through the last 2.5K and managed a ‘PB’ of 47.43. Can you advise the best course of treatment?”
Let me try and talk you through why calf pain can feel like being shot, and I’ll do it in the context of explaining how and why it likely happened so that others can try and avoid it.
Why Does Calf Pain Feel Like Getting Shot?
The phenomenon of feeling like you’ve been shot in the back of the leg is something that I hear a lot – and it’s a big giveaway for me that the person telling me has actually pulled a calf muscle – and quite badly too.
I’d like to note Nick’s age too – 41.
41 is the ripe old age to begin to suffer these kinds of ‘out of the blue’ problems, such as calf strain and I’d bet without me even seeing Nick that he has (in the past) had some kind of problems with a stiff or aching Achilles tendon.
These injuries may not be enough to cause any concern or even limit exercise, but just a sign like feeling extra tight on a morning or late at night, that something isn’t quite right down there.
The Achilles and Calf are connected, so if one of the tightens, so does the other. If you keep pulling at just one of those muscles, eventually it will tighten to the point that it’s forced to snap and pop – this is when you feel like you’ve been shot and the calf strain it at its worst.
What Do I Do When I Pull a Muscle?
I’ve written about ankle and foot type injuries a few times recently and I’ve done so on purpose because it’s this time of year that I see most of them due to the extra running people do in the summer on the hard surfaces combing to add extra stress and tension to things like Achilles and calf muscles – causing them to tear.
Helping to heal calf strain is different for everyone, because everyone has different severities and healing times.
The real question is – what to do about it.
Use Ice to Help Swelling
A question I get asked a lot is ‘when do I use ice and when do I use heat?’
The sooner you apply ice, the better!
Ice provides pain relief and helps minimise swelling, which is the primary purpose of ice.
It’s best to think of ice as a pain-reliever.
Do not apply ice directly to the skin, unless you want to deal with cold burns alongside a pulled muscle! Wrap this in a tea towel and then apply to the area.
Make Sure That You Rest
For the first three days or so, I’d recommend keeping off of your calf to prevent further calf strain. That means no running and limit walking also if you want to keep active I’d recommend swimming.
Controlled stretching routines are important, after 7-10 days, and from then on I’d recommend massages and more stretches to start strengthening the calf muscles.
Do not rush back too soon. Rarely will a true calf strain heal safely and any quicker than 3-4 weeks. If you don’t stay off your feet, it’s more likely that you’ll tear the same muscles again because scar tissue is extremely tight and inflexible.
We’re here to help…
If you’re in pain and would like to talk to us about getting some help, some specialist advice, or if you are looking for a diagnosis, remember we are always here to help you.
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If you would like to get one of our limited slots, please click here to complete our enquiry form or CALL us on 01429 866771.
P.S. Do you know someone with aches in their knees, hips, or a really stiff lower back?
Who do you know that is always telling you about their aches and pains? We would love to help them live a pain-free life too.
That person could be someone who you live with, work with, or an extended friend or family member, who is maybe suffering with some kind of ache or pain that we can fix. It might even be someone you enjoy to cycle with.
Even better, if you refer someone to come and see us at the clinic, you’ll be entered into our ‘Referral for Rewards’ prize draw, to say a huge thank you.
This Article was written by Paul and published in the Northern Echo Newspaper 2nd Sept, 2014.