Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Curing a Calf Muscle

I strained my calf during an interval workout on 8.12.10.  Since then, I've been working to rehab it in the hopes of salvaging a respectable fall season.  The doctor's diagnosis was a muscle strain which takes anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks to heal.  Key points to aid recovery:

  • Give it time to rest/heal.  It was a mistake to run a few days after the initial injury.  I encountered two setbacks, each a week a part, because I wasn't being patient enough.  The setback surfaced as a muscle spasm in the strained area while running (and I was running slow).  For me, I need to take a minimum of 2 weeks off from running to get the healing going.
  • The resulting spasms after the initial injury were the effect of the body protecting itself.  They did not do further injury.  The calf spasmed to tell me to stop running.
  • Speed work likely caused the injury.  Not an increase in mileage.
  • Immediately after the injury, for two days or so, do not stretch the muscle.  Massage is fine.
  • After a few days, begin stretching.  Also use a massage stick and foam roller over the muscle.
  • Good news: once the injury is fully healed you can start increasing quickly.  Increase the miles but not the speed.  A typical progression in running time would go something like this: 20 mins, 30 mins, 45 mins.
  • See a physical therapist as often as possible.  The therapist should work on releasing the knotted area with painful tissue massage.  This is good pain.  The therapist should also use a combination of laser, ultrasound, and stim treatments.
  • Ice frequently.  But don't just ice.  Do contrast treatments: 5 mins ice, 5 mins heat, repeat, repeat.
  • If you decide to take an anti-inflammatory, only take it for a few days after the initial trauma.  
  • Cross training is fine and can begin immediately after the injury.  Things that can be done: bike, swim, water jog, elliptical (although waiting a while on the elliptical is a good idea b/c it closely mimics the running motion).  
  • To prevent this injury, strengthening exercises are necessary.  You can't start the strengthening exercises, however, until the muscle is fully healed.  Things like calf raises need to be done in the volume of 3 sets of 30 reps.  I was doing 10 reps and that wasn't enough.  Jump rope is good and so are high knees.  I need to find more of these types of exercises.
The above list of things could do could work for all muscle strains.  These are just the things I know about.  I'm no doctor so the list is probably exclusive.  If there are other good tips out there, please let me know so I can try them out.


Glenn said...

Thanks for posting. I'm wishing you a speedy recovery!

ron said...

I suggest using a RumbleRoller (rumbleroller.com) instead of a regular roller or Stick. It gets deeper into the calf, and can make a real difference for some injuries.

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