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How Do I Prevent a Calf Muscle Strain?

A calf muscle strain is usually minor, however the pain it causes when one uses the lower leg muscles can be debilitating.
A healthcare provider examining a woman's calf muscle.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2014
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A calf muscle strain can be a debilitating injury, especially when participating in athletic activities. While the injury itself is usually considered a minor one, it can still be painful and take quite a while to heal properly. You will need to spend plenty of time off your feet to allow the muscle to heal, which can put a damper on both athletic activities and day to day activities. To prevent a calf muscle strain, you should be sure to condition the calf muscles properly before participating in any athletic events. A regular routine of stretching and exercise is the best way to prevent a calf muscle strain.

The weaker muscles get, the more likely they are to tire quickly. When muscles tire, they tend to tense up. This means that the calf muscle is more likely to strain during physical activity. A calf muscle strain occurs when the muscles in the calf stretch beyond their means, and the small fibers that make up the muscles begin to tear. Tight calf muscles are therefore much more likely to strain and tear, which means that weak muscles that tire easily are subsequently more likely to strain and tear. Calf exercises and stretches can help strengthen the muscles and prevent strains.

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An exercise routine that prevents a calf muscle strain will include plenty of calf stretching. Your local gym or fitness center will have machines specifically designed to stretch the calf, but calf stretches can be done quickly and easily at home or in the office as well. All you need is a raised surface such as a stair step. Stand on the edge of the step and let the heels hang down. This will stretch the calves, but be sure to hang onto a hand rail to ensure balance. A wall can also be used for calf stretches; simply press the toes against the wall and lean forward.

Calf exercises can help prevent a calf muscle strain. These can again be done at the gym using specific equipment designed to work the calf muscles, but other exercises can be done on that stair step you used for the stretches. When hanging the heels off the edge of the step, instead of just letting the heels hang, use the calf muscles to pull the heels upward so all of your body's weight is on the balls of the feet. Hold the position, then return to the start position. Do this several times to strengthen the muscles of the calves.

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shell4life
Post 4

I've heard some people say that wearing high heels is actually good for developing your calf muscles. I wear them to work every day, and I must say that my calves look very well toned.

However, I have problems when I try to switch to flats. My calves actually hurt when I wear flip-flops or ballet flats, because they are used to the height of my heels.

Does anyone else have this problem? Is there any way to prevent calf muscle pain that doesn't involve giving up my heels completely? It seems like there should be some sort of exercise that would help with this.

wavy58
Post 3

Stretching and slow preparation are essential if you plan to start doing an uphill workout. Climbing stairs or hiking up steep paths both place a ton of strain on your calf muscles, and if you have not prepared them for it, then they will be so sore for awhile.

My calf muscles used to get so sore from climbing the flights of stairs at college my first semester. The buildings did not have elevators, so I had to do this.

I would come home and stretch every day to relieve the pain. I then got the idea that I should stretch every day before heading to class. After a month or so of doing this, my muscles got used to the workout.

Now, I am able to accompany my friend when she hikes the steep hills of the surrounding forest. The stair climbing prepared me for this slowly, and over time, my calf muscles have become ready for almost anything.

seag47
Post 2

@Perdido – It sounds like your calf muscle injury might have been partially due to the fact that you were stressed out while running. The adrenaline rush that must have come from seeing that bull chasing you probably made your muscles tense up, which would make them even more likely to tear.

Adrenaline gets pumped out whenever we perceive danger. Usually, this is helpful, because you get a sudden surge of energy and power, and you could lift things you normally could not or escape from situations without thinking.

However, since your calf muscles were underdeveloped at the time, it had a bad effect on you. Though it is good that you were able to escape the bull, the adrenaline and sudden rapid activity strained your muscles in the process.

Perdido
Post 1

I have never been in excellent shape, and I strained my calf muscles while running from my neighbor's escaped bull last year. Since my body was not used to running at all, and I had to run quickly and across two acres to safety, this placed incredible strain on my calf muscles.

After I recovered, I decided to develop my muscles through exercise. I wanted to be prepared in case I ever had to run to escape something again.

I began doing daily stretches on my porch steps. I would do these before going for brisk walks. Eventually, I worked up to a jog, which I would do at intervals on my walk to avoid tiring myself out.

I now am in much better shape, and I believe that running from something would not place a strain on my calf muscles now. I feel better prepared for emergency situations.

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