The calf is made up of two calf muscles—gastrocnemius and soleus. The former is the large muscle located at the back of your leg, just below your knees, and is visible from the outside of the body. The latter, meanwhile, is not visible from the outside as it is underneath the gastrocnemius. These two muscles are responsible for your daily activities that may include your calves.
When these two muscles lose their normal flexibility, it affects the weight and pressure distribution of the body and feet and ankles become immobile which may result in pain, tightness, and even injury. But other factors that affect calves tightness are on the list. Overuse by endurance activities (e.g. running) is tough for the body and may influence calf tightness. Diseases like PVD (Peripheral Vascular Disease) and DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) are also present as the cause of calf pain. Moreover, dietary imbalance, dehydration, medication side effects, and poor circulation are also considered reasons for muscle cramps.
Symptoms of having tight calf include slight discomfort to severe pain. You might feel a sudden pain in the back of your calf or behind your knee; a pain, swelling or bruising especially when resisting to the muscle; and/or difficulty standing on tiptoe. The muscle also feels hard to touch and twitching under the skin and cramping last from a couple of seconds up to 15 minutes.
To prevent having a tight calf muscle, try to do the following:
Some cramps issues are due to inactivity. You better engaged in some activities to keep the blood flowing.
Warming up before going straight to the physical activities helps to prevent tightening of calf muscles. A slow walk or jog is enough to do the magic.
High heels are not much recommended. Try to wear more comfortable footwear with proper foot support. Remember those old sneakers doesn’t have the same support it has when it’s new. Better buy for a new one.
There are sock-like devices that are worn on calves. These are called compression sleeves. They may help promote better blood flow and support to relieve pain during motion. It is inexpensive and available in fitness stores.
Water is essential to our health. Drink plenty of water every day and eat a balanced diet.
Calf pain may lead to complications if not treated. Calf pulls, shin splints, compartment syndrome, and stress fractures may develop as risk factors if calf tight persists.
But you don’t need to worry. There are some method that you can do if ever calf muscles feel tight. First on the list is to do stretches to relieve the pain. Below are some stretches that you may apply.
- Standing calf stretch
- Stand on a step placing the ball of your foot on the edge of it. Your heel should be off the step.
- Hold onto something like a banister or wall or you can hold on your waist. Drop your heels down as you carry weight to your legs. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
- Bring your body up by standing on tiptoe and hold it for about 20-30 seconds as well before dropping your heel back below the step.
- Runners stretch
- Face a wall standing 12 inches away from it. You may place your hands on the said wall for support. (A chair may also use as an alternative.)
- Extend one leg behind you, keeping both foot flat on the floor and the rear leg straight.
- Lean on the wall (or chair) until you feel the tension of your calf muscle in your straight leg.
- Keep for 10 seconds before doing to the other leg.
- Seated calf stretch
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretch in front of you.
- Reach for one toe and pull it toward your body until you feel the tension in your calf muscles.
- Hold for 10 seconds and do the same to the other toe.
- Towel calf stretch
- Get a towel or a strap.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
- Place the towel on the ball of your foot.
- Pull the towel so that your toes and ankle flex up toward your face.
- Hold for about 10-15 minutes then do the same to the other calf.
- Calf stretch on a yoga mat
- Get a yoga mat and lie there down on all four. Your knees and elbow should be straight and your hips up.
- Gently lift and place one foot on the opposite ankle.
- Slowly lower the heel of your lower foot to the ground or as close as you can comfortably get.
- Gently raise your heel so you’re back on the ball of your foot again
- Repeat 10-15 times on each leg.
If you feel intense discomfort or pain upon or after doing the stretches, better see your doctor for a better exercise advice or other prescriptions. If not, you may continue the exercises and do it several times each day whenever you feel your calves tightening.
There are other treatments that can be applied for a tightening calf. They are as follows:
Nope. This treatment is not about eating the Asian’s favorite menu. RICE stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate and it is, according to research, a good method for immediate treatment for muscle issues in the first 48 to 72 hours upon experiencing pain and tightness. Just use a pack of ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours while resting and putting your leg on an elevated position. A compression bandage may help for the swelling.
Over-the-counter medicines are also advised to relieve the pain. Ibuprofen and naproxen are the two recommended medicines.
You may want some experts to use their hands and manipulate some aching muscles and tissues. Or, you can massage your own calf. You can do this by sitting and reaching down for your calf. Stroke your calf muscles according to the desired but appropriate pressure starting from your ankle up to the back of the knee. You can also shake the belly of your calf muscles using your hands. These techniques can help relax the muscles.
Physical therapist is better than self-medication. They can advise for the best exercise and stretches for your calf pain. They can also suggest for a better treatment regarding the calf muscle issue.