The calf muscle is a powerful muscle at the back of the lower leg. It attaches the the heel bone via the achilles tendon. It gets strained/torn when it is overstretched or overexerted. This type of injury is common in racket sports such as tennis, squash and badminton.
Like all muscles strains physiotherapists will classify them as first degree , second degree and third degree stains.
Risk factors for calf strains
– previous calf injury
– muscle weakness
– muscle tightness
– poor core muscle strength
– poor warm up
– muscle imbalances
First degree calf strain. This is a mild tear with only a small level of discomfort, minimal swelling and bruising. It will get better with R.I.C.E. but may not regain full flexibility and strength without physiotherapy. Many first degree strains left untreated will become re-injured upon return to running.
Second degree calf strain. This is a moderately severe tear of the muscle. There will be significant discomfort and noticeable weakness. Bruising can be quite dramatic. Physiotherapy is essential to restore muscle strength and flexibility.Most hamstring injuries we treat at swords physiotherapy are in this group.
Third degree calf strain. This is a severe tear in the muscle . Patient will have significant pain and will be unable to walk. Fortunately these are uncommon. The patient will require significant time off sport and require lots of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for calf injuries
Until your injury has been assessed and for the first 48 hours you should follow the R.I.C.E. principle. This will minimise swelling and facilitate a speedier recovery with fewer complications.
REST: do not use the affected joint.
ICE: for 10 minutes at a time as often as possible especially in the first 24 hrs.
COMPRESSION: apply a firm bandage.
ELEVATION: raise the injured joint above the level of the heart (to help drain swelling).
In the acute [first 48 hours] stage AVOID – H.A.R.M.
Heat, Alcohol,Running, Massage
Physiotherapy will restore full pain-free stretch and strength in the injured calf muscle. Early treatment is vital because if bleeding is unchecked a large amount of swelling can occur, leading to a much more extensive area of scarred tissue (hard inflexible scab like tissue). This will then need to be treated prolonging recovery time considerably.
Initially physiotherapy treatment will aim to decrease pain and swelling using electrotherapy (ultrasound and interferential) and the R.I.C.E. principle. Once bleeding/swelling has stopped, stretching and strengthening exercises will be prescribed. A detailed assessment of care, strength, general flexibility and bio-mechanics will be made to identify any possible predisposing factors (e.g. flat feet, tight hamstrings, stiff back, weak core muscle groups). A comprehensive rehab program will then be devised.