Calf strain--I got hit

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by AlwaysImproving, Jul 2, 2011.

  1. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    It always happens to someone else, then it happens to you. The one time I forgot to stretch before and voila--calf strain.

    Yes, felt like a tennis ball hitting the back of my calf. No tennis ball in sight.

    Doc says one month until tennis again. That's fortunate, could have been 3 mos. Or an Achilles tear that needed surgery. On crutches now--which are a pain--and can only put a little weight on my foot after 3 days. Really hating stairs.

    Did Ice and elevation 24 hrs after but in retrospect should have not gone to work at all the next day and rested and iced the thing. No swelling or bruising so far, but damn, when muscle fibers strain or tear it's still not fun. Have a nice prescription-strength painkiller, but liquor is better,

    Gonna try some Capsacin and heat and gentle stretching in a few days. Thinking about prevention in the future.
     
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  2. Mike Hodge

    Mike Hodge Rookie

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    I feel for you. I had the same thing happen last New Year's Eve. It's a tough injury and a long road back. Hang in there.
     
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  3. ssgator80

    ssgator80 Rookie

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    Same earlier this year. Back playing in 3 weeks. Scared me when it happened and tough to walk. When I got home from the courts and sitting in a chair I could move my lower leg rather easy with little pain so I kind of fiqured it wasnt as bad as I originally thought. Steadily got better over the weeks. First few times on the court, it was on my mind but got over it. Still have a knot though. Good luck.
     
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  4. FuriousYellow

    FuriousYellow Professional

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    Just getting over one myself. I didn't see a doctor, but I'd put it somewhere between a Grade 1 and 2. It took about 4 weeks before I was playing again, but it still gets tight when I play sometimes.

    One of the people I play with is a PT and she told me adding some cushion to the heel takes some strain off the calf. It seemed to help me when I was recovering, but I ended up removing it after a few weeks. Now I'm getting tightness again, so I may put it back.

    I also wear one of those Zensah calf sleeves. That seems to help a lot.

    I'm also focusing more on tennis specific workouts and gradually adding exercises to build up the muscles for the quick, explosive movements tennis requires.
     
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  5. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    Well I'm one week into my strain. Walking is a bit easier, though I carry one crutch as backup, but the calf muscle still feels tight, especially when I get up after sitting down for a spell. Gonna try some stretching exercises soon.

    Clearly this will take another 2 weeks at least. Want to walk normally first, then jog, then incorporate sprints and leg strengthening exercises.
     
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  6. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    This sounds like a smart progression.

    You may want to go through the Sports Fitness Advisor Tennis Training pages to get ideas for a total program to prevent future problems: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/tennis-training.html
     
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  7. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    Thanks for this. I had been hitting the gym before doing both upper and lower-body on weights, and maybe twice a week on the treadmill and elliptical. In retrospect, however, I would guess that what caused this injury was some combination of:

    Lack of aerobic training with stretching.
    Not stretching and warming up before the game (easy opponent).
    Not stretching after doing weight exercises on my legs (presses, lifts).

    Here's an interesting study from the journal of Sports Medicine stating that, while stretching may have no benefits for sports such as cycling or swimming, in sports that need what they call a "compliant" tendon (such as soccer, football and by extension tennis) require stretching to prevent injuries.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15233597

    Another:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7712551

    I've read other studies in which stretching may cause injuries, but this is in cases where the muscle is stretched beyond its normal range of motion:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15495679
     
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  8. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    You might be interested in this from the USTA:

    "Strength & Conditioning: Dynamic Warm-up and Flexibility Training

    If you have been to sport science presentation lately it is likely that you have heard some information about dynamic warm-up and flexibility training. This is an area of training that is receiving more and more attention in the sporting community and many of the conclusions that have been drawn about this type of warm-up are directly applicable to tennis.

    Dynamic warm-up and flexibility training is an essential element of any pre-practice or pre-competition routine and helps prepare the body for the demands of today’s tennis game. An effective warm-up does five very important things for tennis players.

    1. Increases body temperature allowing muscles to work more efficiently.
    2. Gets the heart and lungs ready for vigorous activity.
    3. Stretches muscles actively, preparing them for the forces experiences during tennis.
    4. Engrains proper movement patterns and the coordination needed in tennis.
    5. Wakes up the nervous system and gets the brain talking with the muscles.

    A dynamic warm-up, which involves stretching with movement, accomplishes all of these tasks.

    Pre-practice and pre-competition warm-up routines have typically focused on static stretching. While this type of stretching is still important for maintaining flexibility and joint range of motion, it really should be performed after play, not before practice or competition. This is a new way of thinking about stretching and flexibility, but recent research has shown that static stretching can reduce the force and power the muscle can generate and that this impaired function can last for over one hour. Warming up properly with a dynamic movement routine like the ones presented in the DVD will help you or your players prepare to play their best whenever they step on the court."
    - http://www.usta.com/Improve-Your-Ga...ning_Dynamic_Warmup_and_Flexibility_Training/


    Examples of dynamic warm up movements can be found at: http://www.usta.com/Improve-Your-Game/Sport-Science/249177_Dynamic_WarmUp/
     
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  9. Tarrantennis

    Tarrantennis New User

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    Time is the only healer and don't come back too soon. Calf, hamstrings, achilles - can ruin a whole summer.
     
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  10. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    So update:

    Eight days out of the injury. Taking some steps now without the crutch, which is now used lightly. What seems to be really helping is stretching--calf towel stretches mainly. Going to progress to other stretches soon. I want to guess another week to walk with complete confidence (up stairs, longer strides, etc.) From there if all goes well I'll try light jogging.
     
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  11. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Thanks for sharing that with us. Encouraging us to prevent it. Much appreciated.

    Hey, how's that Capsaicin? Is it a bunch of inactive ingredients in a cream...or is it pretty effective?

    I take it orally in the form of habanero salsa with eggs.
     
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  12. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    Capsacin worked charms when I smacked my racquet on my ankle bone. But that wasn't a muscular injury. For a calf strain it takes away some pain, but it's not enough to get me playing again--the calf needs to be rehabed. Would use capsacin in a heartbeat though for stiff joints or muscles. Just don't rub it to close to the groin unless you want to play with balls of fire.
     
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  13. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    Take Ben Gay and mutiply it by 10x and that's capsacin. Strong stuff, and it reactivates with water and\or heat, even days after being applied. Freaky...but very effective.
     
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  14. atatu

    atatu Hall of Fame

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    This happened to me a few months back when I was playing hoops, looking back, I was really dehydrated, and I think that had something to do with it. Always drink lots of water !
     
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  15. FuriousYellow

    FuriousYellow Professional

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    The only place Capsacin works for me is on my lower back. It doesn't work on knee or ankle aches or sore neck and shoulder muscles for me, even using the High-Potency version.
     
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  16. blkkirk

    blkkirk New User

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    I have had this injury one each over the last three years in varying degree's. My PT says it is due to a strength issue. He has me doing what I call declines with the injured muscle. Without using the injured calve, use the other leg to raise yourself as high as you can off the floor on your toes (healthy leg). Then place other foot on the ground(on toes) and add as much weight to the leg as you can without pain and lower your body down with both legs. 3X by 12 each day. Slowly start adding more weight to the injured leg as you decline. Eventually going to putting all your weight on the injured leg as you decline. Then do on a stair where you can decline below the normal floor level.

    Good advice earlier in the thread about coming back slowly!!!!!!
     
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  17. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    About 10 days out, can now walk at a mostly normal pace, though the calf is still tight. Maybe needs another week for light biking, jogging, and then another week for sprints, then tennis. Doc seems about right saying it would take a month, but if it's 5 weeks that's fine--don't want to push it. Would rather play injury-free then come back too soon.
     
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  18. Peppershaker

    Peppershaker Rookie

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    Google "The Stick", it's a massage device used primarily by runners. Pulled my calf muscle several times, now every morning I use the Stick, and my calves are no longer sore or tight.

    Be carefull with stretching prior to playing, better to warm up by moving and getting your calves and legs limber even if it's just walking around at a brisk pace.
     
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  19. Mike Hodge

    Mike Hodge Rookie

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    I second the Stick. Worth the money, IMO. Make sure you use a combination of static and dynamic stretching to enhance flexibility and reduce the chance of injury.
     
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  20. L619

    L619 New User

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    I got this injury twice - last year in the right, this year in the left leg. It takes time - last year about a month (it was grade 2), this year about 3 weeks (grade 1/2 and still recovering and playing very lightly). What helps is RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) for the first 48 hours, then stretching, when you feel comfortable without pain, on the wall with injured leg behind the healthy one and pushing the heel to the floor. You need to stop if you feel pain! Do it for 10 sec in series of 5. The other thing which helps me a lot is a cream called "Deep Relief" with ibuprofen in it. I'm not sure that you can buy in States though... I got it from Europe. Good luck with recovery. Unfortunately takes time and the season is so short, especially here in NW.
     
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  21. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    About 2.5 weeks out. Recovery is frustratingly slow. Can walk but jogging is out. Took a quick step across an intersection the other night and the calf tightened and locked like the first few days of injury with just walking. Have been doing toe lifts and stretches. Maybe I need to stretch more (have not been doing sets of 10). I had hoped to be running by next week but it could be another 2-3 weeks for that. The bike on low resistance seems plausible (did it for 2 mins last night andf felt no pain). Anyways, bummed.
     
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  22. Mike Hodge

    Mike Hodge Rookie

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    Reminds me of what I went though. At your stage, I used the stationary bike a lot. I was like you --- I wanted to do as much as I possibly could to speed the recovery process, but my take on this type of injury is it simply takes time for the body to heal. That can't be rushed.

    You'll play again and recover --- just not as quickly as you want.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2011
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  23. AlwaysImproving

    AlwaysImproving New User

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    Thanks for the advice. Probably the only thing that will make it heal faster is not thinking about it.
     
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  24. Mike Hodge

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    I had a moderate tear of medial head of the gastroc. Tested every ounce of patience I had.

    Took me a good month before I could even play and that was very limited. A little mini tennis, very light hitting from the middle of the baseline. Gradually, I got better, but the key, even though you're back on the court, is not to not push it.

    First the muscle has to heal, then you have some rebuilding to do as far as stretching and strengthening and getting your body back into tennis shape. For me, I really didn't make significant progress until I started weekly PT --- and that was a month after the original injury.

    I just started playing tennis about two years ago, but the torn gastroc made me appreciate the game --- mainly how tough it is on your body and why pros generally don't have real long careers. Not only do you have to stay in shape, but you have to take care of your body for the long haul, even at the rec level, IMO.

    If I were you, I would use this 'off' time to ride the stationary bike (to try to maintain conditioning as much as possible) and incorporate a complete stretching program, not just the calves, everything, hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips, shoulder, etc. I've found the more flexible you are, the easier tennis is on your body.
     
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  25. beeveewee

    beeveewee New User

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    same "whiffle bat" thing happened to me. Big pain for days. was skeptical about Physical Therapy but am so glad I went. Back on the court in around 3 weeks just taking volleys. Rallying again in 4. Full recovery in 4 1/2.
     
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  26. Morgan

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    Yep - it felt EXACTLY like that. All morning long the courts next to us were accidentally having balls roll onto our court. Thought this was just another one. Too bad it wasn't.

    I ripped mine today and guess I'll be without sports for awhile. Still in the denial stage. Went 3 yrs since this has happened. I wonder if the cooler weather had anything do to with it? Happened in my third set of doubles. Depressing. On crutches, started on ibuprofen, and will throw ice packs on it (6 hrs late). I did have one of those neoprene compression wraps on it immediately. Hope that helped. Made a MD appt for tomorrow, but I don't know what she's going to do to assist.

    Does anyone know if Physical Therapy will help this injury?
     
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  27. Morgan

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    The ironic thing for me is that just yesterday I picked up two books on conditioning for tennis (and golf) - I have neglected to stretch and stopped running 3 miles (every other day) a month ago due to the FLA heat. Guess I'll have a lot of time to read these books now. I definitely have learned my lesson regarding stretching before playing (and golfing).
     
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  28. Morgan

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    Third week since calf strain. Walked around the block, bearing weight finally without a hint of pain - but when I try a light jog, I feel a twinge. I'm probably about 3 weeks away from any tennis. Don't want to exacerbate. Stretching the calf muscle/gastrocnemius throuhout the day - wouldn't want this injury on anyone, especially anyone used to being active.
     
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  29. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    I hate to read this stuff. Best ways to prevent these pulls?

    I stretch my calves on the tennis netpost a lot. I have dealt with calf cramps in my life that put me down, but no tears..thankfully.
     
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  30. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    That is a great stretch.
     
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  31. FuriousYellow

    FuriousYellow Professional

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    Finally got over the calf strain in my left leg and was running again and now my right one is strained. Same part of the calf as the left one (soleus). Pain was gone after a few days of R.I.C.E., but I'm being extra cautious with it. My left one didn't start out serious either, but kept getting re-injured after I thought it was healed. Ended up lingering for months.

    The worst thing about these strains is there's no warning at all. I stretched before this last injury and was feeling good during the run and then it just seized up.
     
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  32. Morgan

    Morgan Rookie

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    I'm not the most avid player - restarted about 1 yr ago after quitting in college (about 30 yrs ago). I'm not sure how many more strains I'll put up with until I quit tennis for good. Can't go through this every few months -read that even good stretching before/after doesn't necessarily prevent the injury.
     
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  33. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    I'm rarely 100% healthy playing tennis. It is a tough game on the body.
     
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  34. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    two different stretches for the calves

    Do you do separate stretches for both Soleus & Gastrocnemius? Bent knee & straight knee. Most tennis players I see only stretch with a straight knee.
     
    #34
  35. Morgan

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    I think that's part of my problem. Not knowing exactly which muscles that I'm individually warming up/stretching.

    Picked up some KT Tape yesterday. "Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape" - watched the youtube on the use - supposedly it aids in preventing the injury.

    http://www.kttape.com/instructions/calf-strain-ii/


    KT Tape provides excellent support for these muscles during unavoidable activity, reducing aching and tightness in the calf. This application also provides inhibition of the muscles to promote relaxation and healing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2011
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  36. Posture Guy

    Posture Guy Professional

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    This injury is a bear. I'm recovering from one myself. Did stupid stuff, including coming back from it WAY too soon. Here's a key: just because it feels all healed up doesn't mean the tissue actually IS all healed up. Based on a combination of professional and personal experience, here are a few things I'd do:

    1. Go see the best physical therapist you can find and get evaluated. I resisted this but I finally relented, went to someone who is expensive and doesn't take insurance, but also looks at the body in a far more comprehensive way than the typical PT. We found that my gastroc complex as a whole was firing properly but that when the medial and lateral segments of my gastroc were asked to fire independently (by rotating the position of the leg and then doing certain movements), they were almost shut down. I'm an exercise therapist by trade (but not a PT), and she taught me a few very useful new exercises to incorporate into my rehab. You want to make sure all the muscles of your legs and hips are working properly so you don't place undo strain on any one of them. Tennis requires a lot of 'ballistic' movement, much different than just running in plane. We are all well served to ensure our bodies are working in as comprehensive a way as possible.

    2. 'The Stick' is a great idea. I also found a very cool company that sells some amazing products for self-myofascial release work. check out www.tptherapy.com. I ordered one of each of their products and I'm VERY impressed. I was using the smaller roller on my calf last night, especially on the soleus, and wow, it just does a much deeper, better job than I can do with a stick roller. and if you do foam rolling, get "The Grid". I already had 3 different foam rollers. Bought this one to try it out and I'm throwing the others away.

    3. Use a combo of ice and heat to pump more blood through the injured area. That can help moderately accelerate healing and reduce scar tissue formation.

    4. Stretch a lot, walk a lot, but do it to tolerance. Pain is a signal you're doing something your body isn't ready to do. Don't try to run until you can walk without ANY pain for at least 7-10 days. Try walking up steep hills before running, that's a nice test.

    5. Once you start running, if you normally run where you contact the ground first with your forefoot (like the Pose technique), you may wish to consider temporarily going to heel strike. That will lessen the demand on the posterior chain of your leg. Then you can migrate back to a forefoot strike as your leg demonstrates it is ok with this demand.

    6. Once you can do that ok, do some VERY light jogging backwards. Puts a very unique demand on the calf complex. Then once that's ok, I'd go out to a court and start 'running the lines'. Or you can do it in a park, or an empty side street. Do lateral shuffles, forward movements, backward movements, all that stuff. Make sure that all feels ok. Start REALLY slow and then ramp up. If those are ok, then go to sprints.

    7. The zensah calf sleeves are a great idea. Use compression when you come back.

    8. Static stretching has its place but not immediately before a match. Use charlie's advice on dynamic warmup. Once you start playing again, get to the court earlier than usual and go through a FULL dynamic warmup routine.

    9. Engage in a leg strengthening program that doesn't just strengthen your calves, but strengthens ALL the muscles of your leg. When working your calves, make sure you are working both the gastroc AND the soleus. An exercise that works one does little for the other. Work on the hamstrings, work on the quads, the glutes, the hip flexors, ALL of it.

    being out is a bummer but use this time to get your legs into the best shape the've been in for years and you'll come back better than ever. Good luck to you and keep us posted on your journey back.
     
    #36
  37. Champs990411

    Champs990411 Rookie

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    Incredible advice. I've almost lost count of how many times I've pulled my left calf in the last 11 months. 5 that I recall. 4-6 weeks out with each. Coming back too early and not easing back really hurt me.

    This last recovery I walked 1.5 to 2 miles every other day once pain subsided. Would jog just a bit at the end. Ice after. Also went to Home Depot and got a 4" PVC to roll on and really get into the muscle. Same trip I bought a board that I lean against the couch back and stand on, lean into, toe raise, etc.

    To add to Posture Guy, I would advise everyone to stay well hydrated. Dehydration was probably a factor in some of my pulls as they occurred a few miles into a run, late 2nd set, etc.

    PG: Can you expand on the heat/ice advice? What stage? One directly after the other?
     
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  38. Posture Guy

    Posture Guy Professional

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    yeah, hydration is critical, great point.

    re ice/heat, lots of ways to do it. What I'll usually do (and wait at least 3-4 days after the initial injury to do this, before then, just ice) is get a heating pad and wrap it around the injured area and use that for 15 minutes, then I'll ice the area for 15 minutes, then I'll heat it again for 15 minutes. Then afterwards, I get my massage stick and work the muscle, starting superficially and gently and progressively going deeper with slow, smooth strokes.

    hope that helps.
     
    #38
  39. Champs990411

    Champs990411 Rookie

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    Thanks. I'll do that right now on a different injury. (Doh.)
     
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  40. Morgan

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    thanks for everyone that has provided advice....will be careful not to return too soon....it's been three weeks, and I tried a very light jog (only started to bear full weight a few days ago). I think I better slow down. I'll hold off tennis for at least another 5-6 weeks.
     
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  41. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    My doubles partner had the same thing happen during one of our matches. He stopped playing a point thinking a tennis ball from another court smacked him in the calf. He finished the set, slightly limping.

    Turns out it was a muscle tear and he was out for 4-6 weeks.

    Good luck to you both :)
     
    #41
  42. Torres

    Torres Banned

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    I had the same thing happen to me last weekend.

    Pushed off to attack a 2nd serve and felt as a tennis ball had hit the back of my calf from behind. Felt as if part of the calf muscle had snapped width ways like an elastic band. Went down in a crumpled and the calf muscle completely seized up. Couldn't put any weight on it at all or move my ankle (as that would use the calf muscle).

    Saw a doctor the next day, and a physio the day after. Calf muscle tear, possibly rupture. Prescribed crutches, rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflamms, and some stretching / strenghting exercises of increasing intensity as the pain reduces.

    5 days after the injury I can walk without crutches which is a good sign, though the walking has restricted movement. Still have to be careful going up and down stairs or putting too much pressure through the calf muscle.

    Physio thinks I could be walking again normally again within 4 weeks, and back on the tennis court fully fit within 6-8 weeks.

    Useful info in this thread. I think I'll be cautious in coming back, and not rush it.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
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  43. Morgan

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    I'm at 4 weeks and finally walk without a limp - full weight bearing. Will hold off on tennis for awhile. Several times a day I perform various stretching/range of motion exercises and use a latex band that I feel helps. The first week I picked up a couple of McDavid brace/bands w/ velcro for support and it seemed to helped in my 2-3rd weeks for support. I'm a golfer as well and today was the first day I actually hit some full swings without any problems w/ the leg. Will hold off on tennis for another month at least.
     
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  44. Morgan

    Morgan Rookie

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    Very true - the bent knee stretch is very important for this injury, it seems.
     
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  45. Posture Guy

    Posture Guy Professional

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    yep, a straight leg stretch does little to nothing for the soleus.

    it's not an easy muscle to either stretch or work.
     
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  46. Morgan

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    #46
  47. Torres

    Torres Banned

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    9 days post injury - tried to gently massage the calf last night but the area felt sore. Feels worse today as a result of the gentle massage.

    Did anyone do anything to 'treat' the area or did they just leave it alone?
     
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  48. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    I figured out the bent stretch.this is a great one..I get tight there..if am doing it properly, it feels like I am stretching my achilles and lower calf correct?
     
    #48
  49. Morgan

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    Messages:
    147
    This is my second injury. Last time I did this was nearly 3 yrs ago. Back then I didn't stay off the leg for too long (couldn't because of work). I was walking w/ severe limp in 2-3 days. This time I went to crutches for several days, lots of compression, ice, motrin (NSAID), and very little total weight bearing.

    I've been very conservative so far. After about 1-2 weeks, I walked w/ a limp. At 4 weeks, very little limp. Walking around the block. Tried shuffle type of run but started to feel tight. I've been doing frequent stretching of the soleus/gastrocnemius. Bought KT Tape (don't know if it'll do anything). Haven't massaged it - occasional heat gel to the leg.

    I'll probably do more walking, and try to run. Might get out the bike. Might hit ball machine at about 6 weeks.
     
    #49
  50. Torres

    Torres Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Messages:
    4,766
    12 days post injury.

    Walking seems okay. Calf occasionally feels a bit 'tingly' inside as if there's an injury or infection inside. Doing anything more than walking pace eg. quick job to catch the elevators/lift, makes the calf sore/painful, as does anything involving putting pressure through the calf.

    Am getting bored not doing any sport.

    Any risks if I were to attempt a earlier comeback in the next week or two? Am tempted to drop into some of the beginner or lower levels sessions at my club as I doubt that there would be any or much running involved in that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
    #50

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