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A calf muscle tear or calf strain, involves the tearing of the fibres within the muscle of the lower leg. These tears can range from being mild to very severe depending on the cause of the injury.
Calf muscle tears generally occur as a result of a sudden acceleration or deceleration, or change in direction. For example, these sudden movements are found in sports like tennis, soccer and basketball. Patients often hear a popping noise and will feel an immediate sharp pain at the back of the calf. This is also accompanied with increased swelling and bruising. People who suffer a calf muscle tear often have difficulty walking and placing their heel on the ground.
Calf muscles tears are graded on a scale from 1 to 3. Your muscle tear is graded on the severity of the tear. Those who have a Grade 1 tear may require some physiotherapy treatment over a couple of weeks. A Grade 2 or 3 muscle tear will require physiotherapy treatment to accelerate healing, reduce scar tissue formation, and to guide individuals through graduated strengthening program.
Initial treatment for a calf muscle tear includes the RICE method. It is important to rest and avoid putting weight on the affected area in the first few days after injury. Most importantly, use ice to reduce any pain or swelling and keep your leg elevated. It may also be advisable to wear compression bandages or a calf support during this time.
Your physiotherapist will advise you on a programme of stretching and strengthening exercises. This helps you rehabilitate the calf muscle during each stage of the healing process. This process could take between six to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. In the initial healing stage, massage and dry needling is beneficial for ensuring extensibility of the calf muscle and gentle resistance exercises will help to minimise muscle wasting.
As the muscle gets stronger, your physiotherapist will give you a set of calf strengthening and function, sport specific exercises to improve muscle function. These exercises may not only focus on the calf muscle but also on glut, hamstring, core stability and lower limb proprioception to help prevent further calf muscle tears in the future.
It is important to carry out regular stretching of the calf muscles especially after training. Foam rolling is also a useful tool to release trigger points and improve myofascial extensibility. This will help with muscle recovery, maintain muscle length and overall prevent recurring injury.
If you feel that you are starting to experience tightness in the lower leg muscles, regular deep tissue massage sessions can help to stretch the muscle and will identify any areas that may be at risk of developing an injury.
Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, our physiotherapists are expertly trained in treating a number of sport related injuries. If you are suffering with a calf muscle tear or are experiencing tightness in the lower leg muscles, contact us here to book an appointment.