The calf muscles consist of the gastrocnemius---the large muscle at the back of the lower leg---and the soleus muscle, a smaller muscle lower directly under the gastrocnemius. According to the article "Calf Strain" by Sportsinjuryclinic.com, a training resource for sports-therapy professionals, symptoms of a strained or torn soleus can include mild to severe pain, as well as bruising and swelling. Therapists recommend dealing with a torn soleus through a combination of rest, heel inserts, medication, ice, heat, massage and exercise.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- 2 heel pads
- Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
- Ice pack or hand towel
- Heating pad
Stop all physical activity and working out immediately. Buy two heel pads and place them in your shoes. If you change shoes, remove the heel inserts and place them in the shoes you are wearing.
Take two ibuprofen or naproxen pills or capsules every four to six hours throughout the day to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
Put ice in an ice pack or hand towel and strap or tie it around your soleus muscle, with the ice compressed directly against your source of pain. Keep the ice on the muscle for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove it. Repeat every three to four hours throughout the day.
Once the initial inflammation has subsided, use a heating pad several times per day.
Massage the soleus muscle for five minutes several times each day.
Once your inflammation and pain are under control, perform the following exercise: Stand with your hands against the wall. Place the foot on the side of your torn soleus muscle forward, keeping the other one back. Slowly move your front knee forward and stretch your soleus muscle. Hold this position for five seconds, then relax. Do 10 repetitions.
Tips and warnings
- The heel pads in your shoes will prevent an imbalance between your feet, which could prevent another possible injury. Heel pads will also help keep pressure off your soleus while it is healing.
- Use ice within the first 48 to 72 hours after your injury. Ice causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which controls inflammation and pain by limiting the flow of blood and lymph to the soleus.
- Once the pain and inflammation have subsided, heat will promote blood flow (which carries oxygen and nutrients) to your torn muscle. Massage and exercise also promote blood flow. Massage is also important because it helps eliminate any scar tissue, which can make you more prone to future soleus injuries.
- When exercising, start out with some basic stretching exercises (like the one above), then perform exercises like calf raises to build strength in the soleus and calf muscles. Strengthening adjacent muscles will take pressure off your soleus and increase its stability.
- Never apply ice directly against your skin as this can tissue damage.
- Don't start exercising too soon after your injury. If you experience any pain with any of the movements, stop doing that exercise immediately.
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