Calf Strains usually develop during sports which are either repetitive or have high instantaneous loads on the lower legs, for example, walking, hiking, running, football and netball. The Perth Physiotherapy and Sports Injuries Centre can help you with the diagnosis and treatment of calf pain.


CAUSES OF CALF STRAIN


Under-training

During training, our body adapts to the increased load of the activity by thickening and strengthening tissues to cope with the increased strains. If a tissue such as the calf muscles is heavily or repeatedly loaded, for example when sprinting but has not had enough training to allow it to cope with these loads, it may develop a tear in the muscles or tendons. An example, would be the office worker who plays football at the weekend but has not trained during the week.

Over-training

Our body adapts to the increased load of training by thickening and strengthening tissues to cope with the increased strains. If the calf is heavily or repeatedly loaded without enough time to recover and heal, it will break down and become painful. Over- training and over-use occur in repetitive sports such a football, distance running and over zealous training in any fast moving sport.

Over-load

When properly trained, our calf muscles and tendons are strong and resilient. When there is a sudden acceleration or deceleration which suddenly stresses the calf to a load greater than it can cope with, it will pull apart, creating micro tears which become inflamed as they attempt to repair. Most tears are micro-tears or partial tears, known as strains but sometimes the calf muscles or tendon will completely tear and this is called a calf rupture. Overload injuries often occur playing tennis, squash, during all football codes and athletics and are due to:-

  • Inadequate warm up
  • Inappropriate training or conditioning
  • Faulty biomechanics such as weakness, poor muscle flexibility and joint stiffness
  • Previous and now chronic injury

A Physiotherapist will identify and correct any factors which have contributed to the development of the injury.


SYMPTOMS OF CALF STRAIN


There may be stiffness and ache in a gradual onset over use injury and severe pain with a sudden tear injury. Generally pain and stiffness is mild initially with a slow onset training type injury and acute strong pain occurs with more widespread tears and inflammation. The more rapid the onset, the greater the degree of damage and inflammation.


DIAGNOSIS OF CALF STRAIN


The diagnosis of Calf Strain and the choice of treatment will need to be made by a Physiotherapist. A thorough examination is sufficient to diagnose the Calf Strain and other investigations such as an ultrasound scan will be arranged if extra information is required.


TREATMENT OF CALF STRAIN


Calf strains heal best when treatment has begun as soon as practical following injury. The sports person must immediately stop the sport and avoid any movement which produces the pain. In the case of sudden onset pain, the RICE protocol should commence. This is:-

  • Rest:                 Rest from aggravating movements to reduce further bleeding and injury.
  • Ice:                    Real ice wrapped in a wet towel and applied to the injury for thirty minutes every two hours.
  • Compression:  The calf may be bandaged to reduce swelling but not during sleep.
  • Elevation:         The leg may be elevated to a 45 degree angle to drain swelling.

Medications

Pain killers may be needed initially and anti-inflammatories may be used after 48 hours when bleeding has stopped.

Advice regarding

  • The injury diagnosis
  • Anti-inflammatories and pain killers
  • Compression bandaging

Direct Physiotherapy Treatment

  • Ultrasound and other electrotherapy
  • Stretches
  • Soft tissue treatment
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Exercises to regain strength, movement

Physiotherapy Management of return to sport

  • Correction of biomechanical anomalies
  • Technique modification
  • Provision of orthotics and footwear advice
  • Providing a return to sport plan

Management may require the use of crutches or a walking stick to reduce the load on the tissues. As the injury begins healing, the Physiotherapist will advise a graduated return to exercise program without an increase in symptoms. Depending on which part of the calf is injured, there will be stretches, strengthening, proprioceptive and mobility exercises to return full function and reduce the chance of the injury recurring.

In the event of a severe injury where Physiotherapy is not appropriate, the patient will be referred directly to a doctor and on to the appropriate professional for further investigation and treatment. In the event surgery is required, Physiotherapy rehabilitation will be arranged afterward.


PROGNOSIS OF CALF STRAIN


Calf strains recover well with Physiotherapy management. Full recovery may take between some time depending on the extent of the injury. The goals of treatment are to achieve the best quality healing with a pain free, full range of movement and normal function, so there is a minimal likelihood of a recurrence in the future.

Phone the Perth Physiotherapy and Sports Injuries Centre now on (08) 9481 7677 for your Physiotherapy assessment and we will tell you how we can help you.

Contact Us

Go to top