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Calf tears

What are calf tears?

The calf is a group of muscles on the back of the leg travelling from the knee down to the Achilles tendon on the back of the heel. This muscle can be injured while sprinting or pushing off to move forward during a sport such as netball, basketball, squash and tennis. Long distance running can also cause calf tears. Sharp pain on the back of the leg is associated with this injury and the person may also have trouble stretching. Calf tear usually begin to heal within 7-10 days. If symptoms persist after this time it is important that you are accessed.

What causes calf tears?

Factors that can lead to calf tears may include:

  • Age
  • Lack of calf strength or endurance
  • Lack of sport specific training
  • Previous injuries to related area
  • Reoccurrence is likely to occur.

You may have a calf tear is you experience pain in the back of the leg following a specific incident.  A physiotherapist can examine your calf by preforming  a few tests to confirm the diagnosis.

How can physiotherapy help with a calf tear?

Your physiotherapist will be able to explain to you what your injury is and how severe it is. You will be advised how long it will take to recover. A plan should then outline the following:

Initial management— RICE Techniques

  • Rest— do not do any activities that hurts your calf.
  • Ice—20 minutes every two hours, during waking hours, for the first two days.
  • Compression—use a compressive sleeve or bandage from the ankle up to the knee when not icing.
  • Elevation—put the leg above the level of the heart where practical.

The RICE technique is especially important for the first 4 days to ensure the injury does not get any worse.

Strengthening—a progressive program of exercises to regain the strength of the calf, this will be prescribed by your physiotherapist.

Running—a graduated program to build speed, agility, sport-specific skills and then return to training and finally sport.

Return to sport or physical activity guidelines and expectations

How effective is physiotherapy for calf tears?

Physiotherapy is effective for the management of calf tears as your physiotherapist can give you advice and a personal management plan that will allow you to return to your desired activity.

What can I do at home?

It is important that you follow the RICE technique as shown above and protect the area from further injury. Avoid alcohol and anti-inflammatory medication, as local bleeding is increased and healing is slowed. It vital that you do not stretch in the first 10 days.

How long until I feel better?

Often Calf Tears take 2–6 weeks to get better although this may depend on the individual. It is important that you rest and seek appropriate treatment followed by a graduated strength and running program.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.