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Calf muscle tear

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I just got my first age-related injury. While running up a moderate incline I heard & felt a pop in my left calf, and some sharp pain. Couldn't get up on my toes of that foot. An orthopod friend took a look and said I have a partial tear of the gastrocnemius near its attachment to the Achilles tendon. He gave me a heel lift for my shoe and that, with ibuprofen and ice, makes it more comfortable. Apparently this injury is common among middle age tennis players.

So, who's had this? How long till I feel good enough to get back on the bike? What else shoud I do? Any good preventative stretches?

post #2 of 9
I'm a tennis player and an ex-soccer player, so I've known a few people who have had this. I tore mine in high school (soccer) and was put on crutches for a few days. I guess there was some fear of a blood clot. Don't stretch it during the acute phase. I used to periodically pull my calf, and then stretch too much and make it worse.

You can google "tennis leg" and find a few items. Here's a short one:

Tennis Leg... the Unknown Malady!
11/18/03 2:50 PM

by Jim Brown, Ph.D.

Everyone has heard of tennis elbow, but fewer people are familiar with tennis leg. Tennis leg is a strain (a stretch, tear, or complete rupture) of the gastrocnemius, which is the larger of the two muscles in the calf. Tennis and soccer players, among others, can injure the muscle by pushing off or moving forward quickly. “

“Tennis leg seems to be an injury that occurs after the age of 40,” explains Gary Levengood, M.D., an Atlanta orthopedic surgeon. “Among tennis players, warming up and stretching don’t seem to prevent the strain. I see lots of patients who were hurt during the second set of a match.”

Levengood, who suffered the injury himself while playing soccer, describes the pain as feeling like being shot or kicked in the leg. “Although it could be farther down on the leg, the pain is usually felt about four inches below the crease of the knee on the inside part of the calf,” he says. “In addition to the pain, it will be difficult to walk, the area may become discolored, and there may be swelling. In some cases, there is a noticeable depression in the muscle.”

Self-treatment should include rest, ice, light compression, and elevation (RICE). “Although it’s possible to recover without medical intervention,” advises Levengood, “return to physical activity will usually be faster if a physician treats the injury and prescribes a program of rehabilitation. Electrical stimulation may be used to produce muscle contractions, then light stretches are recommended as part of the rehabilitation process. Recovery can take two or more weeks.”

One of those stretches is performed by pulling the toes toward the shin with a towel to the point of resistance and holding the position for 30 seconds. The second is a calf stretch, in which the person faces a wall and places the injured leg back with the knee straight and the other leg forward. Lean toward the wall, keeping the injured leg straight and, again, hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
post #3 of 9
I tore mine out of the start gate on a cold morning. One week on crutches followed by 3 weeks of PT. The location of the tear is right about the top of the ski boot, so it needs to heal completley before you ski. Even walking in a ski boot with this injury is a humbling experience. I would get your friend to prescribe some PT so that you can get fit before the season begins. Good luck!
post #4 of 9
My wife started calling me Igor after I tore a calf muscle fifteen years ago. Mine was significant enough the foot and ankle turned black and blue from blood settling there. The physician told me no more skiing for at least six weeks and it was that long before I could move comfortably with a ski boot on. The advice was to not try or allow ankle flexing with weight bearing until it didn't hurt any more, ergo the Igor shuffle.

Several years later I blew out the Achilles tendon on the other leg. What my experiences taught me was it's important to keep the calf muscles stretched and flexible. I stand daily on a 30-degree ramp for 10-15 minutes as part of my morning routine.
post #5 of 9
i had this or a similar injury leaning forward to set a volleyball. it sounded scary as I heard a loud pop. felt like someone kicked my leg out from under me. my claf muscle was tense like I had pulled it. couldn;t put any weight on it and was black and blue in the area lower to the calf muscle. after about 2-3 weeks, it went away.

sometimes, I feel like I have a calf strain though.

post #6 of 9
Mine was right above the boot. I rested it plenty but did not get or follow a PT plan. This resulted in an atrophied calf muscle that has never quite come back to the same strength and remains significantly smaller than the other calf making me a wretched and hideous freak. This might not happen with younger people, but, I wouldn’t know.
post #7 of 9
I've had that same injury. DO NOT stretch it. That is what the heel lift is for. The heel lift keeps the muscle in a more relaxed state.

I wouldn't even screw around with this a bit. You definitely want it to heal correctly and completely. Get PT prescribed and go until you are pain free. It should only take a few weeks, but it is worth it.
post #8 of 9
I think this is what happened to me on Thanksgiving, while running a 5K. Of course, I have been training for months with nary an injury or any other issues. Felt fine and loose the morning of the race, and did my usual stretches. About 1/2 way through the race, my lower calf/achilles region felt a little tight on the left leg, but otherwise fine. But at about mile 2, I felt a pop and had intense pain in the inner calf muscle of the left leg. It felt like a cramp, but after researching it I know it was a tear/strain.

I limped for a couple days, but was doing much better by day 3, and felt normal by day 4 (and walking normally). I have been icing and resting the calf whenever I get a chance, and hitting ibuprofen. No signs of discoloration. I did see some minor swelling and had some pain after I walked for about 45 minutes at the gym yesterday, but it went right down with ice and rest. I am hoping I will be OK to ski in another couple weeks or so. This is a bitch of an injury to unexpectedly have right as ski season starts off. I think next year I will skip that Thanksgiving 5K....
post #9 of 9
Just wanted to follow up since these threads are often used as reference. I saw a sports-med doc in early December for my injury, and he confirmed that I tore the plantaris muscle in the calf, which is a long thin muscle and the most "minor" of the calf muscles. The guy said no big deal in the case of this particular muscle, and he was correct that it would not impact skiing very much (though it did hurt to walk in ski boots for the first month or so of the season). I still get twinges from the muscle many months later, and will resume spring running cautiously once my ski season is officially done.
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