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Feeling stiff in your calves after a run? Physiotherapist Kate Senini explores the two main reasons a muscle feels as if it’s ‘tightening up’.
Calf tightness can often be cast aside as the ‘norm’ and many of us will go months before paying attention to it.
A little tender loving care can go a long way in maximising calf strength and endurance – but first we need to look at why these muscles often get stressed.
Overload of the muscle, occurring in the absence of joint stability, or inadequate muscle strength and power in the lower limbs.
Without stability, runners commonly grip their toes to the ground in an attempt to gain balance and stability, which creates continual tension through the calf muscle.
Decreased lower-limb strength also leads to overload of the calf during the ‘push off phase’ of running as we propel ourselves forward.
Our big gluteal muscle is built for power, and the hamstring assists in bringing the knee up behind us. Without the strength of either of these muscles, the calf muscle becomes the sole driver of propulsion, becoming fatigued and tight.
Nerve or connective tissue tension, often related to the spine, pelvis and hips.
Stretching and release work both above and below the calf muscles is important in alleviating this tension.
A full biomechanical running assessment is the most accurate way to establish the contributing factors of persistent calf tightness. Through a tailored exercise program, these areas can be rectified and running technique improved to offload the calf muscles and restore flexibility and function. Lets get these lower legs in tip-top shape again!
About the Author
Kate Senini — Consultant Physiotherapist
Kate was a founding partner at Pure Physio in 2010 after returning from working in the UK. Recently Kate has decided to focus exclusively on her clinical role. Helping people recover from injury and prevent future injuries has always been her true passion!