Calf pain for runners is common complaint. Your calf muscles are used extensively and repeatedly during running, so it’s no surprise that sometimes they can become overloaded and develop pain. Here’s a great infographic from Tom Goom from the PhysioEdge series of podcasts, that highlights the recommendations for the treatment of calf pain.
So, what does it mean for you if you’re a runner with calf pain?
- Exercise Therapy is a crucial part of the treatment of calf pain. Exercises should be specifically targeted to increase your calf’s capacity for the demands of running. There are some great examples below. Your Physio would be able to identify exactly where any weakness may lie and subsequently advise on the most effective exercises for you. It may not only be your calf muscles that are weak, muscles around your hip and knee support the work of the calves during running, so strengthening these muscles is crucial too. Pilates is great for this! And don’t forget your feet. Working on the static strength of the muscles in your feet that bend your toes can help your running technique.
- Neural Mobility is how well your nerves ‘slide’ or move in your body. We all know that our joints and muscles move and stretch but our nerves also have to be able to move freely. When they don’t, this itself can cause pain and restricted flexibility. Reduced neural mobility may not be local to your calf, it could be originating from a more central source (your back/spine). Your Physio would be able to identify whether you have reduced neural mobility and advise on the best exercises to improve neural mobility. It may be that some manual therapy would help too.
- Training Loads, so distance, time, speed, terrain, will all have an impact on calf pain. Our aim is to always try and keep you running wherever we can (always keeps runners happy!). So, we offer customised advice in modifying your load to keep you running whilst your calf pain is addressed. This is not always possible though and there are cases where resting from running and doing some specific rehabilitation is essential to your recovery.
- Gait Retraining can have a massive impact on recovery and prevention of calf pain. Your running technique and style can improve your efficiency of your running and reduce demands on the structures involved in running. Here at goPhysio we offer a specialist Running Rehab service, where a biomechanical and video running analysis is carried out to guide any beneficial changes to your running technique. Small adjustments to technique can often have a massive impact on your running.
The trap many runners fall into when they get calf pain is to stop running, rest completely until their pain is gone and then go straight back to their normal running routine. Then they’re frustrated when the pain comes back again and they repeat the cycle. When you pick up an injury, particularly an overuse injury like calf pain, it is crucial to identify and address the cause to prevent the potential long term cycle of injury.