Repeat Calf Injury

by Christina
(San Diego CA USA)

that's me!

that's me!

I've been running pretty consistently for approxiamately 20 years. I usually only run approx 3.5 - 5 miles depending on how much time I have and how I'm feeling. I was running at the beach about a month and a half ago and I hopped up to a kerb and I felt something pull in my left calf. Before long, I had to stop and each time I tried to run I wouldn't get far before I felt I had to stop or I would really injure myself.

My ortho Dr. advised me to do some calf stretching. After about a 3 week hiatus, I started running again and I built back up to where I was running before and the pain subsided. A couple of nights ago, I was at a party and I hopped up in place and I felt that same pulling sensation realizing that I had re-injured myself. I was told by a friend that I may have tiny tears in the muscle tissue.

I hate taking time off from my running like this to heal. What can I do to prevent this from happening?
I am not good about stretching, matter of fact I generally only stretch my lower back by touching my toes and crossing my legs to get an even better stretch. Sometimes I stretch my thighs a little, if I am stretching it's not much. I don't have much time for my runs generally and it's never been a problem before.
Your advice is appreciated.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Christina,
Thanks for your question about your calf injury. Cool picture.
Both times you hurt your calf was when you jumped up, possibly making too much of a stretch to get somewhere. That's what made you pull your calf muscles.

Your muscles are quite flexible and elastic. Think of a rubber band. But when you stretch the rubber band a little too far, it will tear a little. Same with your muscles. Stretch them too far and you will get little tears. These hurt a bit!
They will heal themselves, but you probably have to give them a bit of rest.

As far as prevention goes... I have good and bad news. The bad news is that it involves stretching. The good news though is that you are already stretching your calf muscles via the exercise you described!
Next time you try to touch your toes, feel where the real tension is. It should not be in your back, but in the back muscles of your legs.

I appreciate you generally do not have much time (who does nowadays?), but take a few minutes after your workout to do a few gentle stretching exercises and your body will thank you for it.

Even then, occassionally you will pull a muscle, but when you regularly stretch after your runs you at least give your muscles the best chance to stop that from happening.

Check out my running stretches page for more information about stretching, when to do your stretching and which stretches you should do after your running training.

Hope this helps.
Kind regards,

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