Tight calf muscles are a problem which athletes and in particular runners suffer from frequently. The calf muscle group comprises of the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle. These muscles can gradually tighten and get worse when running or may get better when running and tense up later.
Causes of Tight Calf Muscles
- Compartment syndrome may cause calf muscles to tighten. In this condition, the size of the muscle increases than the sheath surrounding it. This results in pressure, pain and restricted movement.
- Biomechanical problems may also cause this problem. Orthotics can be prescribed by a sports injury specialist or a podiatrist after doing a complete biomechanical analysis.
- If the muscles are not stretched before training or after training, then they gradually tighten up over a period of time.
- There may be micro tears in the muscles which cause spasms in them. In this condition, the blood circulation slows down to these muscles and they do not get sufficient blood and sufficient nutrients. This results in the muscles tightening up as a defense mechanism to protect them.
Treatment of Tight Calf Muscles
- The flexibility of the muscles should be tested. Patient should start on a course of regular calf muscle stretching exercises for a minimum of 6 weeks.
- A deep tissue massage can be given by a sports massage therapist. The number of massage sessions depends on the condition of the muscles, although the gap between the massages should not be very long or they will revert back to their original condition.
- Sports massage helps in relaxing the tense muscles, improving the flexibility and the conditioning of the muscles. Any type of massage should be avoided during the acute stage (usually 48 hours) of the injury.
- A Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint helps in stretching the muscles. It also prevents the muscles from further tightening up.
Stretching Exercises for Tight Calf Muscles
- Stand with the legs spread apart.
- The heel of the back leg should be positioned on the floor with the knee straight.
- The front knee should be bent forwards along with leaning forwards and pushing against a wall if necessary.
- This stretch should be held for 10 seconds.
- Repeat three to five times for three times a day.
- Increase the duration of the stretch gradually (up to 45 seconds).
Soleus Muscle Stretch
The same method as above should be followed, but the stretching leg should be flexed at the knee. This excludes Gastrocnemius muscle, attaching above the knee, from the stretch.