With the upcoming Victoria Marathon Weekend coming up, calf pain is a common complaint. You can get it whether you are a keen runner or just busy on your feet all day. Read more to find out how our Physiotherapists and Registered Massage Therapists can find out what is causing your pain – and how to stop it.
Anatomy of the calf
We know the calf as the back muscles of the lower leg. There are two large muscles in the calf as well as other smaller muscles. Separating them is connective sheaths called fascia. Most of the muscles in the calf work to point the foot down. The muscles also function to support the knee and foot. In the calf area there are also nerves, arteries and tendons. Any of these can also be a source of pain.
Diagnosis of Calf Pain
When making a diagnosis of your calf pain your physiotherapist will want to know where you feel your pain. Calf pain can be pin point pain or a general ache that is hard to localise.
Another important factor is what brings on your calf pain. Is it there when you wake up, or with running after a certain point?
Or is it there all the time? This is important to your physiotherapist making an accurate diagnosis.
Your physio will also perform an examination to locate, reproduce and ease your pain. Special tests may also be used to see if your calf pain is being referred from somewhere else.
Common diagnosis can be:
· Calf strain
· Calf muscle weakness
· Achilles tendinopathy
· Compartment syndrome
· Neural irritation or sciatic pain (pain referred from the back)
· Deep vein thrombosis
But why is my calf pain happening?
It is also important to find out why your calf pain is occurring. Biomechanical faults and muscle imbalances can cause calf pain. Other factors can be:
· Training load
· Ankle mobility
· Knee alignment
· Gluteal/buttock control
· Tight hamstrings
· Weakness in glutes, quads or foot muscles
· Poor core control
What will your physiotherapist do for your calf pain?
Depending on your calf pain your physio will do a variety of treatment techniques to target the correct tissues. Treatment of calf pain will depend on the source. If it is mainly a localised problem, then local treatments include mobilisation, massage and dry needling. If there is referred pain your physio might treat your back or nerves. If the pain is referred then treatment may be directed to other areas of the body.
Your physio will also perform a thorough biomechanical assessment. This will assess muscle control, static and dynamic posture of the whole lower limb. Trunk stability and hip control can also affect the loading of the calf. Your physio will provide you with exercises to overcome any issues they find and provide a treatment management plan outlining the process of your rehabilitation.