Calf Tear or Strain 

So you decided to re live your old glory days on the football field, or reintroduce running to your exercise regime. Suddenly you have a sharp pain in your calf. Congratulations you have yourself a calf tear. 

How do I know if I’ve torn my calf? 

You will feel pain in the calf muscle (the muscle on the back of your leg between your knee and your ankle). 

You will have pain or be unable to raise your heels off the ground. 

You may have visible swelling or bruising to the area. 

Calf tears are a very common injury in active men over the age of 50. 

What should I do if I suspect that I’ve torn my calf? 

To put it simply RICER 

Rest from aggravation 

Ice- or approximately 10 minutes at a time. (This will mainly provide pain relief for the first few days) 

Compression- simple bandage around the injured area 

Elevation- elevate the effected limb above the heart 

Refer- get in to see a health professional as early as possible. 

Following these guidelines will help to kick start your recovery. 

How do I know if I’ve torn my Achilles tendon? 

The pain you feel will be much lower, down near the ankle.  

You may have an obvious deformity where your tendon is missing 

You will not be able to elevate onto your toes. 

If we suspect that you have torn your Achilles tendon we will refer you to a doctor to perform appropriate imaging and make a specialist referral. 

Do I need an ultrasound or MRI for my calf? 

For most people there is need to have a scan of their injured calf. Professional athletes often have scans to give them clarity around recovery times. This does not direct treatment, nor help them recover faster. 

There may be cause to scan a patients calf if there is signs of complication such as DVT, infection, or a slower than expected healing. Your Physiotherapist will be able to adequately assess you. 

Can physio help a calf tear? 

Physiotherapy treatment can help to speed up your recovery. A Physiotherapist will be able to properly assess, grade, treat and provide an appropriate exercise program to maximise your recovery. It is never “too early” to start your treatment. 

How do you treat a calf tear? 

This depends on the severity of an injury. All injuries will receive some hands-on soft tissue therapies or dry needling. The Physiotherapist will then prescribe appropriate rehabilitation exercises for your phase of recovery and your grading of injury. 

One of the most important factors in the recovery of a calf strain is strength work. Your physio will implement strength exercises as soon as your pain allows and then upgrade them as appropriate. 

There is a need to incorporate both straight knee and bent knee calf raises into this program. 

As the program progresses functional activities such as running and skipping will be added depending on the persons goals and expectations. 

How long do calf tears take to heal? 

Grade 1- 1-4 weeks 

Grade 2- 4-8 weeks 

Grade 3- 8+ weeks 

There are many factors that contribute to our body’s healing and these are general guides only. 

Will my Calf tear heal on it’s own? 

Yes and No. 

The muscle will heal on its own with some rest, however it will leave behind weakness that will leave you vulnerable to reinjury. The strengthening exercises and the gradual return to running will lead to a sustainable ling term recovery. 

Can I exercise with a calf tear? 

Yes, we encourage our patients to continue their training and exercise routine while avoiding activities that exacerbate their calf, such as running, skipping. 

Strengthening exercises and return to running should be added as early as possible and upgraded appropriately.  

Do’s and don’ts 

Do 

  • Rest for the first few days 
  • Apply ice for the first few days 
  • Start active rehabilitation as early as possible 
  • Start strengthening as early as possible 
  • Start walking/ running as early as possible 
  • Progress exercises and resistance as you improve 

Don’t  

  • Rest for more than 1-2 days 
  • Use ice for more than a few days post injury. 
  • Substitute stretching for strengthening 
  • Continue with simple exercises when they are easy (progress them instead) 
  • Return to sprinting after a few days rest because you “feel better” 

We have helped many local sports clubs in the local Peakhurst, Lugarno, Oatley and Riverwood areas rehabilitate their players from calf injuries. 

By Peakhurst Physio

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