The large muscles situated at the back of the lower leg constitute the ‘Calf’ muscles providing body balance and the capacity for explosive activities. They are therefore prone to injury during sporting activities. The area behind the ankle, the Achilles, can also be a source of pain. Injuries can vary from mild strains to complete ruptures.
A tear or rupture is a serious injury and something that should be looked at by a professional (Physiotherapist/Doctor). It will be characterized by tightness if very minor, or a sensation as though one has been kicked in the leg if more serious. Mobilisation immediately after may not be possible and the muscle may cramp. A snapping sound upon injury will require immediate medical attention and surgery might ensue.
More minor strains will be stiff after periods of rest and upon rising in the morning but will improve with movement.
Pain after or at the start of a run denotes degeneration in the tendon behind the heel or may be a result of recurrent small strains. Tendon injuries are typically stiff in the morning and take a few minutes to a few hours for them to loosen up, depending on the seriousness of the strain.
Repeated or new activities i.e. distance running
Poorly fitting shoes
Low arches in the foot
Degeneration (wear and tear) i.e. distance running
Severe tears or ruptures of the calf muscle of Achilles tendon may need a scan and a surgical opinion. Where minor strains are identified ice should be applied in conjunction with rest for the first 48 hours. Where the tendon is injured, treatments are directed at stimulating a degree of controlled and purposeful healing to stimulate new tissue. Most problems only require conservative techniques and respond well to electrotherapy, mobilization and sometimes acupuncture. Exercise is very important after the injury in order to restore strength, ranges of movement, tendon regeneration and ultimately to allow the return to sport. Assessment of footwear and the provision of orthotics is sometimes indicated where a biomechanical abnormality exists which may pre-dispose an individual to an injury.