Your body's two calf muscles--gastrocnemius and soleus--help you walk, run and jump. Because of their unique anatomy and because of the way they act on your knee and ankle joints, your calf muscles are extremely powerful and can perform an incredible amount of work. But what happens when you sustain a calf injury? According to New Zealand-based sports medicine physician Dr. Ruth Highet, "Calf muscle injuries are extremely disabling when they occur, as they often do, during a short sprint on the tennis court, or soccer field, at the athletics track or during a high intensity aerobics class." Massage is a constructive way to cope with your calf strain. It's been used for many years to speed healing and prevent injuries in active people.
Calf massage, when performed on you by an experienced massage therapist, helps improve your systemic circulation, as it promotes the return of venous blood to the heart. The website HighBloodPressureInfo.org says: "Massage to your muscles helps them push blood back to the heart through your veins, increasing the vital oxygen needed to keep the tissue in your legs from deteriorating." Other circulation benefits of calf massage include enhanced blood flow to the calves themselves--which benefit from the delivery of nutrients and the flushing of harmful metabolic byproducts--and a lowering of blood pressure.
Reduces Scar Tissue
After a calf muscle injury, and especially if a tear occurs, it's common for you to experience pain, swelling and inflammation in the area where your injury occurred. If your injury is left untreated, your body puts down scar tissue in an attempt to heal your wound. Unfortunately, your body does this in a haphazard manner. Your scar tissue often adheres to your surrounding muscles and fascia, creating "myofascial" adhesions. This results in restricted muscle range of motion and impingement of your nerves and blood vessels, and it may manifest as pain or lower extremity dysfunction, says the website Myofascial-Release.com. Using various techniques, a skilled massage therapist can manually reduce your scar tissue adhesions to help decrease your pain and restore mobility to your restricted muscle or body segment.
While acknowledging that more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, the Mayo Clinic touts massage as an effective way to relieve your pain. It says some studies have found massage helpful for sports-related injuries. Of course, massage therapists from many different traditions have long known the pain-relieving potential of massage, and have helped countless patients recover quickly from mild to severe calf pain and dysfunction. A massage therapist skilled in the art of trigger-point therapy is able to palpate your calf muscles and identify areas of tightness that need to be "worked out" or released. Trigger points--tight bands or nodules within your muscles--often are the cause of your calf pain and can be effectively treated using massage.
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.