I've been a serious runner for 17 years and during that time I think I have had every injury known to running. Most heal with time and rest. This injury is different because I completely laid off running when I felt my calf tighten. It is strange because I tore it anyway and it's taking FOREVER. I've been doing the elliptical and working on building strength so I haven't loss fitness but this doesn't seem to be healing. Please advice on how you recovered for a calf strain. Thank You!
When I tore mine last spring I did a lot of research and one of the things that surprised me is the presence of scar tissue if you've got an old tear. That scar tissue is weak and susceptible to a second tear, but there is a way to deal with it.
What I did was wrap mine with compression tape, but kept moving. I walked and did light jogging, but the main thing was to get rid of the old scar tissue I'd found. If it's there, you'll feel a lump, at least I did right where it tore.
You'd probably be well advised to go to a massage therapist if you find a lump, they'll know what they're looking for and the idea is to break up the scar tissue with deep massage. Apparently it will dissolve back into your system once you do.
I hope this helps, if you're dealing with old scar tissue, it might explain why you're not healing.
And good luck!!
Edited to add: I just realized this is posted in the Med Tent and there are people in here infinitely better qualified to answer this question than I am. I'll leave my answer here, but apologize for sticking my nose where it probably doesn't belong.
Message was edited by: Richard Davis
Enjoy life, this ain't a rehearsal...
Here is one approach. Basically it involves working on "trigger points" or knots.
I've seen several articles online about "calf heart attack". Google it and hopefully you'll find something to help.
Both scenarios are possible, but you should not assume it is torn if it simply feels like what you think a tear feels like. Len's description of trigger points based on micro-damage can hurt just as much, and also cause a palpable lump. One difference is, a lump of scar tissue can eventually be smashed into oblivion by deep tissue massage, while a trigger point lump can be made worse by aggressive massage. If you must err in your assessment, err on the side of caution.
Another difference is that a lump of scar tissue may not hurt at all when pressed, while a trigger point usually does hurt when pressed, sometimes when only touched. Deep tissue work to break up scar tissue will of course hurt, but trigger point therapy may give instant relief.
Trigger points may disappear temporarily or permanently after one session of targeted massage, while scar tissue is going to take a while for the immune system to break up and disburse. Trigger points might change location (seem to move around) or produce pain or secondary trigger points in other parts of the body, while scar tissue is going to stay in the same location until it is absorbed into the blood stream.
A trigger point is usually found in the belly of a muscle, causing a narrow band of muscle fibers to be pulled tight. This taught band within the muscle can often be felt as well, and followed by the fingers until the tiny lump of tissue in spasm (trigger point) is found.
While deep tissue massage is usually best done by a therapist who won't back off more than necessary when you feel the pain, trigger point massage requires more perception and feedback, and is well adapted for self-massage. I know that there are folks out there using sticks and rollers for this purpose, but blunt instruments are best for proactive maintenance. Pesky cases of trigger points are best handled with real live fingers. Your own will do just fine. Just find the sensitive lumps and apply pressure at a 7 on the 1-10 pain scale, and hold for less than 12 seconds to prevent possible damage from ischemia. The arteries should open in response improving circulation and healing, and the trigger point should release, at least temporarily. Most trigger points need periodic release, with decreasing frequency when the therapy is successful. If you do too little or too much there may be no effect at all. If you're not getting anywhere, seek a professional who understands trigger points in athletes, and has the hands to deal with them.
While you are on the mend, think about what may have led to the damage in the first place, and see what you can do to eliminate that cause. Sudden increases in mileage or intensity are a no-brainer, but there may be biomechanics to address, bad running surfaces/angles, or wrong type of shoes. Have your gait analyzed for possible faults in form, and your shoes examined by an expert who can read the wear pattern for other clues. Meanwhile, stay on the massage in hopes of a quick turnaround.
Use these clues as your guide to what you are dealing with. My advice is to treat it like a trigger point until you know otherwise for sure.