The calf consists of two muscles: the soleus and the gastrocnemius, which is a large muscle located at the back of the lower leg. The calf muscle is an important motor in the lower leg and is responsible for normal walking and running. The calf muscle connects to the soleus to form the Achilles tendon , a large tendon that attaches to the calcaneus. You have two gastrocps, one on each shin.
The calf muscle originates as two heads behind the knee. The medial or internal head arises from the medial condyle of the back of the femur (femur). The lateral head on the outside of the tibia arises from the lateral condyle of the femur.
The muscle then travels down the back of the leg and attaches to the deeper soleus muscle. They both form the Achilles tendon and attach to the back of the calcaneus or calcaneus. Some anatomy experts believe that the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles function as a unit and are often referred to as the triceps muscle group. ( Triceps means three and sura refers to the calf muscle).
The gastrocnemius muscle is superficial; it is easy to see and can be touched with the back of the shin.
It is interesting to note that a small floating or sesamoid bone called the fabela is present in the lateral part of the gastrocnemius muscle in approximately 10-30% of people. This anatomical abnormality does not usually cause functional problems.
The gastrocnemius muscle is innervated by a nerve called the tibial nerve. It arises from the greater sciatic nerve . The tibia is served primarily by the first and second sacral nerves of the lower back. Your doctor will study the function of this nerve by testing your deep tendon reflexes with a small hammer.
The artery that supplies blood to the gastrocnemius muscle is the gastrocnemius artery. This artery originates from the popliteal artery behind the knee.
The main function of the gastrocnemius muscle is plantar flexion of the ankle. This means that as the calf muscle contracts, the ankle and toes point downward. When walking, running, or climbing stairs, this muscle flexes the ankle and pulls it forward.
The muscle is considered one of the "antigravity" muscles. It works with the quadriceps and gluteal muscles to help lift our bodies against gravity. When your foot is on the ground, the calf muscle also stabilizes the foot and ankle.
Because the gastrocnemius muscle crosses the knee joint from behind, it is considered a bicarticular muscle. Thus, it acts not only on the ankle but also on the knee. The function of the calf muscle in the knee is to work with the hamstrings to bend or flex the knee joint.
Because it is a bicarticular muscle, the gastrocnemius muscle is prone to frequent and overuse during exercise. This can lead to muscle problems.
Many conditions can affect the calf muscles. They may include:
- Stretch or tear of the medial gastrointestinal tract : This occurs when a muscle is overloaded and a tear occurs in the abdominal part of the gastrocnemius muscle. This causes pain, swelling, bruising, and decreased strength in the calf muscle.
- Achilles tendonitis: Your Achilles tendon may become irritated due to faulty foot and leg mechanics or repeated overload of the tendon. When this happens, Achilles tendonitis can develop. The hallmark of Achilles tendonitis is severe pain in the tendon behind the calcaneus, difficulty walking or running, and swelling in the Achilles tendon area behind the lower leg.
- Achilles tendon rupture : If the calf muscle and Achilles tendon are suddenly overloaded and cannot properly handle force, an Achilles tendon rupture can occur. Achilles tendon rupture can be partial or complete. When this happens, you are more likely to experience pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. Usually, but not always, an Achilles tendon tear requires surgery.
- Calf Cramps – Many people are prone to calf cramps . These sudden sensations of constriction and constriction in the calf muscle can happen accidentally. The cause of stomach cramps remains a mystery, but many people speculate that it is due to an imbalance of water and electrolytes in your muscular system.
- Paralysis or weakness from a tibial nerve injury: If you have back pain and sciatica , the calf muscle nerve can be pinched. It may be due to a foraminal stenosis or a herniated disc in the back. A pinched nerve reduces the amount of signals that reach the calf muscle from the brain, which can lead to muscle weakness or paralysis. You may have difficulty contracting the muscle while walking, and you may notice significant atrophy or contraction of the calf muscle.
If you have pain or limited mobility in your calf muscle, it is important to see your doctor. He or she can diagnose your condition and help you on the road to recovery.
If you have a calf muscle injury, your healthcare provider can determine the nature of your condition and help you choose the most appropriate treatment for you. Working with a physical therapist can be a good idea for various calf injuries.
Initial treatment for many calf muscle injuries generally involves a period of rest or immobilization. This allows the calf muscle to heal and you can begin to regain flexibility and muscle strength. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you use an assistive device, such as a cane or crutches, while walking to reduce force through the calf during this healing time. After the short rest period is over, calf rehabilitation can begin.
Calf muscle rehabilitation depends on the severity and type of injury, and your doctor will likely use a variety of treatments to help you make a full recovery. They may include:
- Massage: Massaging the calf muscles can help improve local blood flow, tissue elasticity, and relieve pain and spasms. It is often used to treat calf sprains or breaks, calf spasms, and Achilles tendonitis. A certain type of massage called scar tissue mobilization may be used if you have had surgery on your calf or Achilles area. This can help improve the mobility of the tissue around the scar.
- Stretch your calf muscles: Improving the flexibility of your calf muscles can be one of the components of your rehabilitation. Stretches, such as a towel stretch or a runner stretch, can help improve flexibility and mobility of the stomach in the ankle and knee area. The calf stretch can also help relieve muscle cramps. Most stretching exercises last 15 to 30 seconds and can be done several times a day.
- Kinesiology bandage: Your specialist may touch the calf muscle as part of injury rehabilitation. Kinesiology tape can help relieve pain and improve gastrointestinal contraction to support the ankle and knee.
- Strengthening exercises: Strengthening the calf muscles can be an important component of injury rehabilitation. If you have a weakness from a pinched nerve, you can do back exercises to relieve pressure on the nerve . Then you can work on strengthening your calf muscles. It may also be necessary to strengthen your calves after exercise. You can do exercises such as plantar flexing your ankle with a resistance band or lifting your heel on a step to strengthen your calf muscle. A specific program for the calf and soleus muscle group is called the Alfredson protocol . This includes the use of eccentric exercises to properly load the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon to prevent problems such as Achilles tendonitis.
- Physical methods: Your therapist may use heat or ultrasound as another treatment option. Heat improves blood flow to the muscles, so a deep heating procedure called ultrasound can be used. Ultrasound penetrates the abdomen of the gastrocnemius muscle and improves blood flow and tissue mobility there. However, caution must be exercised; Many studies have shown that ultrasound has little therapeutic benefit and that it may not be more effective than simply training the muscles to improve circulation.
- Balance Exercise: The calf muscle is the main stabilizer of the lower limb and is active when the foot is on the ground to stabilize the leg. Balance exercises can help improve gastrointestinal function and restore normal gait and running. Exercises such as standing with one leg can be performed. Using a BAPS board or wobbler can also be beneficial, and positioning on the BOSU ball can improve balance and function of the calf muscles.
Recovery from a calf injury can take from two to twelve weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to understand your specific prognosis and what to expect from GI rehab.
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The calf muscle is the main motor of the ankle and knee joints and works in conjunction with the adjacent muscles to help stabilize the leg while walking and running. It is also susceptible to various injuries and conditions. Basic knowledge of the calf muscle can help you fully recover from injury. In this way, you can quickly return to your normal activities and functions.