Muscle strain/tightness OR muscle release - which treatment

by Stephen
(Arbroath UK)

You say that if you have a slight strain or tightness in the gastrocnemius muscle,the RICE procedures should work well. You should NOT perform foam roller exercises until the pain is almost gone, or you could re-injure your muscle or tendon.

But how do you know if you have a slight strain/tightness and to apply RICE OR if the sore spot is just a muscle that needs released by foam rolling?

Comments for Muscle strain/tightness OR muscle release - which treatment

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Response to Muscle Strain Part I
by: Elle Bieling, RN, HHP

Hi Stephen,

What a great question! You sound like the kind of person who would like to take better care of himself. For those readers who don't know where the gastrocnemius muscle is, it is the muscles of the calf.

In order to advise you on whether you have a muscle strain, vs. a muscle knot or tightness that could be foam rolled, I would need more information from you.

Technically, a muscle strain is a result of tearing the actual muscle fibers. It can be mild to severe, depending on what happened to cause it. Usually a strain is from a sudden, traumatic event.

Did you suddenly take up running, or a new sport that requires fast take-offs from your legs like sprinting? Soccer, baseball, basketball and running all involve acceleration of the leg and calf muscles. Since the weather is warming up in the Northern hemisphere, many are getting off their couches and taking to the outdoors! If this is you, you may have strained the gastrocnemius muscle by engaging in a new activity to which you were not accustomed.

In order to prevent muscle strains it is a good idea to gradually build up your muscles to get used to the new work.

If you can remember a recent incident where you where playing a sport or running and you suddenly felt a pull or a sharp pain in your gastrocnemius muscle, most likely this is a strain and it is due to muscle fiber tears.

If this is the case, RICE, or Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation is the recommended treatment. You could also take an anti-inflammatory, to help with any swelling or pain. Ibuprofen, Alieve, and plain old cheap aspirin are all anti-inflammatory agents. Take these with food, so you don't upset your stomach.

If the pain you feel in your gastrocnemius muscle is very bothersome, being over a 5 on a 1-10 scale, or more than just an annoyance, then perhaps it is a good idea to get it checked out. Especially if you do remember a traumatic event.

Response to Muscle Strain Part II
by: Elle Bieling, RN, HHP

However, if this does not describe you, then you may just have an overuse-type problem of your gastrocnemius muscles, that has built up over time. The lining of the muscles called the fascia, can get bunched up over time and cause a sore spot.

This type of muscle knot can be treated with the foam roller exercises. There is always a reason why you hold tension here. You may be training too hard, or maybe you are not equally balanced and are more dominant on one side. You do not say if both your gastrocnemius muscles are effected or just one side. Most of us use one side more than the other.

You may wish to consult a physical therapist or physiotherapist as you call them in the UK. They can help you evaluate if you need strengthening in one side, to overcome an imbalance, or if you have a problem with your gait, and so forth.

Or if you have only mild pain, just commit to learning about your own body, through foam rolling. This way you know when you are overusing your gastrocnemius muscles. Focus on telling your other side to get in the game too!

Be sure to follow my advice on how to roll your muscles, on my foam rolling pages!

Peace, Health and Healing to You!

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