Whether a recreational or professional athlete, or just trying to stay healthy, a calf injury can sideline someone for months if not managed appropriately. I missed about six months of running during residency due to a calf strain I didn't give the appropriate respect to. This was mostly because of lack of time, but also because doctors are generally terrible patients.
The calf muscles are mainly organized in two muscle groups on the back of the tibia, and they are incredibly important for most sports as well as everyday activity. When any of the muscles get injured, this can cause you to miss out on valuable training.
While some calf strains will self resolve with just rest, that may not be an option for some of our patients. At Central Massachusetts Podiatry we offer a range of next level treatments for folks who have to get better quickly. Speaking from my own personal experience, I recently finished a course of shockwave therapy on a mild calf strain because I'm training for a half ironman distance triathlon in June.
First line treatment of a calf injury is with things like rest, compression socks, contrast baths, foam rolling and very light dynamic stretching. Sometimes we will require further assessment with ultrasound or MRI. We can almost always treat it with shockwave therapy, which is a non-invasive treatment that delivers high energy shockwaves to the injured area to increase blood flow and stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
The treatment is a little uncomfortable but not terribly painful. We determine the number of sessions depending on the injury (or if it’s a chronic problem), and they tend to be spaced one week apart. Many patients experience early improvements after each treatment, but the real biological benefit starts to kick in around 4 to 6 weeks after each treatment.
Fixing the causes
The key to fixing calf strains and preventing recurrence is to identify what is causing the injury. Is there a flaw in your training plan? Are you doing too much hill work? Are you wearing the wrong shoes? Do you have muscle weakness in your hips and glutes? Are you running the same route everyday with a slant in the road? Do we need to fix your stride?
Ultimately, the best way to know what to do with your calf strain is to be seen by a medical professional who wants to understand why it happened and get you healed while preventing the next injury. We will work with you as a team to get you back to your desired activity as safely and quickly as possible, according to the specific nature of your injury.
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