Did you feel calf muscle pain when running or playing sports? You felt like someone literally smacked you in the calf? Or did it feel like a calf muscle cramp? Was your pain intense enough to stop you from playing and now you can’t even walk ? Well, there’s a big chance you have ended up tearing your calf muscle! Now if you’ve ended up seeing your GP straight away, he will tell you to be on crutches. Also immediately stop all activity. But then what? So many times we see patients with no further advice from their GP’s or the hospital moving forward. So here’s a protocol to follow to get back to daily activities and eventually your sport.
According to the Australian Physiotherapy association, the initial management should include RICE:
- Rest—do nothing that hurts your calf.
- Ice—20 minutes every two hours, during waking hours, for the first two days.
- Compression—use a compressive sleeve or bandage from the ankle up to the knee when not icing.
- Elevation—put the leg above the level of the heart where practical.
You can see your GP to get anti inflammatories or pain medication. It is important to get further investigations like an Ultrasound scan or even an MRI to know the extent of the tear. Your Physiotherapist will be able to advise on this. It is important to see a Physio as soon as possible to help recovery.
Our Physios can diagnose the extent of the tear by asking specific questions and using tests. In most cases the recovery can take upto 3 months to get back to sports. After this, the physios will then treat using joint movement and soft tissue massage to ease the pain. This will also help improve mobility by improving blood flow. Once the pain and swelling reduces, our therapist will focus on calf muscle stretches and strengthening. A graded exercise program is the most useful in these conditions. It’s important to progress slowly. As the joint range improves, your physio will guide you to take more weight on the foot. This is then followed by a graded strengthening program. This will help with returning to sport.