Why Do I Keep Straining My Calf? How Physiotherapy Can Help Your Calf Strain

Recurrent calf strains can be frustrating, but understanding the underlying reasons can help you prevent future injuries and stay active.

 

There are a few reasons why someone keeps straining their calf…

  1. Not enough strength
  2. Not enough time between bouts of exercise
  3. Not enough spring in your calf – to be able to reduce our risk of calf injuries, we need to be able to use it quickly, as that’s what we do when we run/play sports
  4. Running technique – you might be running on your toes
  5. You may be over training

As always, these don’t points below are for educational purposes only – these should not be taken as medical advice, and should only be changed/used if you have consulted with your physio.

1. Not enough strength:

  • Importance of Strength: Strong calf muscles are essential for supporting dynamic movements in sports like running and jumping.
  • Research-based Standards: Studies suggest specific strength standards to reduce the risk of calf strains:
    • 30 good quality, single-leg bodyweight calf raises.
    • 4 sets of 8 reps of standing single-leg calf raises with 50% of body weight as external load.
    • 4 sets of 8 reps of seated single-leg calf raises with 150% of body weight (may vary based on sport).
  • These exercises target key calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus, which stabilize the ankle and absorb forces during running.
    Adequate calf strength supports dynamic movements and reduces injury risk. Specific strength targets, like those recommended by research, can guide your training efforts.

2. Not enough time between bouts of exercise:

  • Recovery between workouts allows muscles, including the calves, to repair and adapt to exercise stress. Inadequate rest between workouts can lead to cumulative fatigue and overuse injuries.
  • The recommended rest period between exercise sessions varies depending on factors such as exercise intensity, duration, and your individual recovery capacity. It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust training frequency accordingly.
  • Consider cross-training if you are keen to keep exercising, but are feeling fatigued in your calf muscles.

3. Not enough spring in your calf:

  • Calf Springiness: Quick force production and absorption are crucial for sports performance and injury prevention. Without the ability to produce force quickly, our risk of injury is higher.
  • Training Approaches: Plyometrics drills improve calf power and reactive strength.
  • Exercise Examples: You can see some examples of exercises on our youtube page here.

Developing calf springiness through plyometrics and agility training enhances performance and reduces injury risk. Exercises should replicate the demands of individual sports for the best results.

4. Running technique:

  • Impact of Technique: Although there is no perfect running technique, if you run with the front of your foot hitting the ground first, you are playing more load on the calf muscles.
  • Technique Tips: Focus on midfoot striking intermittently throughout the run
  • Physio Guidance: Ask your physio for a running assessment to identify and modify your technique

Remember, these tips are for educational purposes only and should not replace individualized advice from a qualified healthcare professional. By addressing these factors and incorporating preventive measures into your routine, you can minimize the risk of calf strains and enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

 

Conclusion:

So, there you have it – calf strains are not just a “rest until it feels better and run again” – as you can see, there are quite a lot of moving parts involved! Please reach out to us if you are having problems with your recurring calf pain.

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We believe that modern physio should offer you care across the entire treatment journey to achieve your goals, from pain relief, to strengthening and reducing injury risk. This is why we created our purpose-built facility with access to state of the art technology and equipment.