Calf Strain

I haven’t done an update in a bit. While doing a training run up Rocky Canyon Road while it was covered in ice a week and a half ago, I heard a car coming up the road behind me. I turned to look, slipped on the black ice and fell awkwardly, pulling something in my right calf. I limped a bit and then finished up the 22 mile run.

Turns out, I have a grade 1 calf strain! That’s good news mostly since it should be healed up in time for my next race – The Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler in about 5 weeks! The bad news is I haven’t been able to run since the injury (unless you count the 3 mile test run that made me limp even MORE when I was done a couple days later!) I learned my lesson from that and have behaved myself beautifully (mostly!) while trying to recover and get back in the saddle.

What I’ve learned about calf strains during this:

1. STOP running or doing any activities that engage the calf for the first 48-72 hours! You can make the damage worse if you do!

2. DON’T try to foam roll or stretch it out! Turns out, this too can cause those muscle fiber tears to get worse and cause you to take more time to recover in the long run.

RICE - Rest + Ice + Compression + Elevation = The Road to Successful Recovery!

3. ICE is your friend! Icing the injury, using compression socks, elevating it and rest (the usual RICE prescription) are exactly what you need to be doing. I was also advised to take ibuprofin in regular doses to help with the initial discomfort.

4. See a doc! I saw my chiropractor within a couple of days and was able to find out if I had a level 1,2 or 3 strain, what treatment options were good for me, how long recovery would take, etc. Don’t put this step off! It’s best to know exactly what you’re dealing with you so don’t make the situation worse by trying to “push through” the pain or stretch it out when you might be needing to just sit back, ice it and take a few days off.

Control yourself!! Follow your Dr's orders! 🙂

5. Keep your eyes on the long-term goal! No one likes to be sidelined by injury, but if you keep you eyes on the prize — getting healthy again so you can return to your sport — you’ll make wiser decisions than if you start thinking short term such as “Maybe it won’t be so bad if I “just ran 5 miles” on the injured leg today!”  when you were told to NOT run at all for two weeks, etc!  Patience will pay off here! Don’t turn a small problem into a bigger one by jumping the gun back into training! And, remember to ease back in once you get the green light!

 

 

 

 

If you are facing a calf injury and aren’t sure how severe it is, here are the basic differences between a Grade 1, 2 and 3 strain and how to tell the difference (from Jubileesportphysio.com.)

Grade 1:

  • The muscle is overstretched causing small micro tears in the muscle fibres.
  • Mild discomfort, often minimal disability.
  • Recovery takes approximately 2 to 3 weeks if you do all the right things.

Grade 2:

  • There is partial tearing of muscle fibres.
  • Moderate to severe discomfort with walking, and limited ability to perform activities, such as running and jumping.
  • May have swelling and bruising associated.
  • Full recovery takes approximately 5-8 weeks with good rehabilitation.
  • Professional assistance is highly recommended.

Grade 3:

  • This is the most severe calf strain with a complete tearing or rupture of muscle fibres in the lower leg.
  • Severe injury that can cause inability to walk. Often patients complain of muscle spasm, swelling and significant bruising.
  • Full recovery can take 3-4 months and, in some instances, surgery may be needed.

I’ve been doing yoga at the local YMCA and just today — 9 days after the injury — felt like the calf was well enough to walk on again for 3 miles. It’s progress! I’ll try some of other low-impact options at the Y this week and hopefully I’ll be back to running again in a few more days off!

I’m seeing my chiropractor again tomorrow for Graston therapy (which I have considered to be one of the most useful tools in my “keep ahead of injury” quick fixes) when injury threatens to take me out of the game!! It’s done miracles from my IT band and since calf injuries also cause scar tissue to form will be a good idea to make sure this heals right and doesn’t become a chronic problem later!

Graston Therapy being demonstrated on an IT band - it's like MAGIC for breaking up scar tissue and restoring pull motion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully I’ll be 100% by race day!! Think happy, healing thoughts for me! 🙂

11 thoughts on “Calf Strain

    • Thanks so much! I saw the chiropractor today and had ultrasound and ART on the calf and Graston on the IT band. I’ll see him again in two days for follow-up. It’s still really sore to the touch so he recommended no running or stretching/cross training until that has improved and I can work the muscle without pain.

  1. Thanks for writing this. Very informative. I strained my calf on my first ten km race. Luckily a minor one! That Graston therapy looks ouchie!! I love my osteopath. Sending healing vibes! Enjoy your yoga and walks!

    • I recovered from the calf strain and ran a PR 100 miler 6 weeks after the injury which was a relief and a surprise! 😀 Thanks for asking! I have had no problems with the calf since!

      • Hi Christie, thanks for the advice and tips. I pulled my calf doing an interval session on the treadmill. How long after your injury did you start getting deep tissue massage and do stretches? I am racing 70.3 world champs in 27 days. Really hoping I can race hard!

        • I think I started getting treated about a week after the injury. It helped a ton! I ran my 100 miler 6 weeks after the injury and then 6 weeks later qualified for Boston, so it all worked out. Hope you heal up fast too!

          Christie

  2. Hi Christie-
    I believe I just strained my calf muscle doing a short/fast race. I may have made the injury worse by trying to massage/roll it too vigorously too soon…I often go to a chiro who does graston and ART. Should I hold off on all of this for a little while? I noticed above you mentioned you waited a week to get deep tissue massage. And should I also avoid yoga/stretching for a little while?

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