When youHow to Treat Tight Calf Muscles – Stretches and Other Exercises, it’s not uncommon to feel tight in your legs and hips. Tight muscles can be problematic while running because they limit how freely you can move your limbs.
But having a body that is loose and supple will allow you to hit your running goals. Incorporating specific post-run recovery routines into your training regimen will help loosen tight muscle groups from head-to-toe, including the hips and legs, in order for you to become an efficient runner on race day.
Tight muscles, especially tight calves, can hinder your willingness to go out and really push it on your next track workout or hill session. If you’re dealing with tight Calf stretches in bed How to loosen tight muscles in legs because of running, you might be wondering how in the world you can loosen them up. This article is for you.
We’ll analyze the symptoms, causes, and treatments related to tightness in your calves. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to relieve calf tightness by tailoring a rehab regimen specifically designed for your body.
What Are Calf Muscles?
Your calves are located behind the lower leg. There are actually two different muscles in your calf muscle. The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle that looks like a bulge. The plantaris is the smaller muscle underneath the gastrocnemius.
Calf muscles are used to pull your heels up during jumping, running, or walking to enable you to move forward. You use both of your calf muscles and meet at the Achilles tendon for any leg or foot motion.
What Do Tight Calves Feel Like?
This can vary from person to person. Typically, you’ll experience pain and sometimes tightness in the back of your lower leg. The pain could be dull or sharp. Tight calves can be treated at home, but if you have additional symptoms beyond just pain, see a medical professional.
For example, symptoms like swelling, discoloration under the skin, abnormal feelings (tingling or burning), warmth, or coldness may indicate a more serious condition that won’t clear up on its own.
If you continue to run onTight calves for months– even if you’re not experiencing severe symptoms – it could lead to more serious injuries down the line. For example, you may suffer a tear in your calf muscle.
What Causes Tight Calf Muscles?
Tight calves can be caused by a variety of factors, so you’ll want to suss out what is most likely to have caused this for you specifically.
Most often when you experience tight calves it’s due to Calf muscle hard as a rock. These can last anywhere from a few seconds or much longer. Cramps can be caused when you start exercising more than usual or are doing different exercises than usual.
You’re also more likely to suffer from cramps if you are dehydrated, experience low electrolytes and have existing muscle injuries. In some cases, the cause of these could be serious conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, or alcoholism.
If you know that you are getting enough hydration and nutrients and aren’t dealing with any specific muscle injuries but are still experiencing cramps, then it might be a good idea to check for more serious underlying causes as soon as possible.
Another common culprit of tight calves is muscle strains, most commonly leg cramps that affect mostly runners. The causes are very diverse, but are usually triggered by extreme use or misuse.
You’ll know that you have a muscle injury the second it happens. You might suddenly experience pain and have limited range of motion. You can often treat this at home, but if it’s a serious strain, then it can cause a tear in your calf muscle that requires medical attention.
The calf muscles and Achilles tendon come together someway down at the heel. So if you hurt your calf, it could also hurt at the heel due to a condition called ‘Achilles Tendonitis’ – which is caused by overusing or straining the Achilles tendon.
The main symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include tight calves and a swollen, inflamed area around the back of the heel. These problems can make it hard to bend your foot when you lift your toes. Resting, icing, compressing, and elevating should help ease this problem in most cases.
Landing on Your Forefoot
If you land on your forefoot rather than heel-striking, your muscles will be what absorbs the load. But if they’re not strong enough, then you might injure yourself through a calf strain or Achilles tendonopathy.
A lot of people suggest minimal running shoes because they boast a lower heel drop but finding your way into these shoes can be tricky. There are a few things that you need to remember as you start easing yourself into this new style of training.
When your foot lands too far in front of you, it increases the risk of calf injury because there won’t be enough support for your knee and you’ll try to compensate by over-stretching. Make sure that you’re falling back onto your heel, rather than landing too far in front.
Other More Serious Conditions
While the four causes mentioned above are common with runners, it’s worth noting that if none of them describe you, your tight calves might point to something more serious. For example, diabetic peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that impacts your arms, hands, feet and yes, legs.
Another serious issue is Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a type of blood clot contained in ones deep vein like beneath your legs. If you are a smoker or sit down for long periods of time at a stretch, you might be more prone to this condition.
Conditions like these require immediate medical attention. If they can’t be explained by another cause, see a doctor about your tight calves.
How Can Runners Treat Tight Calves?
For those who don’t know, RICE is a popular acronym used to outline specific steps for how to treat muscle strains or injuries. But we want to remind anyone dealing with an injury that leaves you cramping up that prevention is the best medicine.
Regularly Stretch Calves
Stretching your calf muscles can help reduce the risk of strains and injuries, but it’s important to take the time for a proper stretch. If you frequently get tight calf muscles, stretching is something you should do regularly.
Standing Wall Stretch
Face a wall and place your hands flat against it. Put one foot in front of the other and bend the leg closest to the wall slightly. Do not let your knee go past the top of your toes. Hold for about 30 seconds with your straight leg firmly pressed into the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Step Calf Raises
While standing, place one of your feet on a step a little higher than your other foot. Carefully bend your standing leg and bring it down until you feel the stretch in your lower groin. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat several times up to 4-5 times. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can do both legs simultaneously.
Upside-down “v” Stretch
Make an upside-down “V” with your body while on all fours. Make sure your knees and elbows are straight. Slowly inch yourself toward the other leg by tightening that thigh muscle and then reach back with that arm to get closer to the other side of your body, eventually reaching the floor / the other foot.
Once you achieve this, hold it for a few breaths and then repeat on the other side of your body once comfortable enough.
If you’re looking for a great way to strengthen your calves, try going back to something you used to do in grade school: jumping rope. Start small by seeing how many jumps you can do without stopping. You’ll gradually get more coordinated and balanced. Just make sure to always land on your toes.
Another option is to sit on the floor and place an elastic resistance band just below your feet. While keeping your knees straight, point your feet forward and tighten the resistance band around your feet, making sure it stays taut throughout.
Use a Foam Roller or Massage Gun
Foam rolling, massage gun or getting a professional massage – these are all great ways to relieve tight muscles if you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long.
If you don’t have time during the day, get cracking on this relaxation regime before bed. There’s nothing like a spot of personal grooming to make it feel like the day is officially over.
Use a Night Splint
Although it might look a little strange, wearing a protective splint while you sleep is a way to let your calf muscles rest at night. Make sure that the angle isn’t too aggressive so that it doesn’t hurt. Over time, you’ll get a gentle stretch as you wear throughout the night.
Stretch With a Calf Stretcher
If you are experiencing tight calf muscles and/or pain in your calves, you might try purchasing some calf stretchers. Calf stretchers are helpful if you have trouble stretching your calves. There’s a variety of types of calf stretchers, including angled ones and curved ones.
Stretch With a Calf Stretcher
Another big misconception is that people need to take ice baths in order to properly recover after workouts. Ice baths are considered one of the worst things you can do for your body as a runner. It does absolutely nothing other than cool you down which helps with inflammation, but being physically warm is better for recovery overall.
It is always useful to start a workout with some warm-up exercises for about five minutes. It will definitely help you get your heart pumping and muscles loose before you quickly move into the real thing. It is especially important if jogging hasn’t been a part of your daily routine up until now or when you are starting out at the gym.
Tight calves are very unpleasant and it’s likely the reason you’re dealing with them is because you’re overworking your lower legs.
Whether you’re new to running or you’ve been doing it a while, taking time to stretch and warm up, and gradually increase intensity and distance.
Running is a fantastic activity and can be enjoyed by people regardless of their background, but there are preventative measures that should be taken into account. Over time tighter muscles can begin to form in the calves and will almost certainly impact the functionality of your running.