Q Ive been suffering from pain in my right calf for a couple of weeks. I rest for a few days and then run, but I cant seem to shake it off. How long should I rest for, and are there any exercises I can do to speed recovery?A With any injury to any part of the body you have to be aware of how the body heals itself. If you attempt to resume training too soon, the result is usually early breakdown and recurrence of the problem. At first, try some simple home treatment. Usually this consists of icing in the first five days to reduce tissue metabolism and promote blood flow to the healing tissue. You should supplement this with a gentle range of movement exercises until the tissue is strong enough sometimes as early as day five to be warmed and then stretched gently.
Dont rush back into running, though. Think of the rehabilitation as rungs on a ladder. You are not allowed to step up onto the next rung until you are symptom-free. This is where the skills of an experienced chartered physiotherapist are essential in order to accelerate your return to running and provide guidance for the next level of exercises. When your calf strength has returned to an acceptable level, they may recommend some plyometric training. This type of training which includes strides, bounding and jumping suits the calf muscles, as they are responsible for power development. We find that this type of training restores the physiological function of the calf musculature most effectively.
When you and your physio are happy, youll be able to embark on a gradual return to running. An approximate timescale for full recovery from this type of injury could be anything from four to six weeks. It might seem a lengthy process, but a little time spent now, getting your rehab right, might prevent the injury occurring again in the future.
Andrew Caldwell, chartered physiotherapist at East Midlands Phyisotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic, Loughborough