When it comes to completing a stretching program, some muscles can be easily forgotten. Stretches for muscles of the neck, lower back, quads and hamstrings are well known and often included in pre and post workout programs. But what about the calves? These muscles help us walk, stand, run and jump, so they should be given a little TLC as well!
There are two main muscles that make up the muscle group collectively known as the ‘calf muscles’. The gastrocnemius is the main bulk of the muscle that you can easily grab with you hand at the back of your lower leg. This muscle attaches just above the knee and inserts into the heel. The fact that the muscle crosses two joints means it can contribute to two motions, flexing the knee and pointing the toes. Your soleus lays underneath the gastrocnemius. The soleus is a one joint muscle, and contributes to pointing the toes. The soleus is the workhorse when it comes to maintaining a standing posture.
The calf muscles can be responsible for pains in the knees and the feet. Conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints or even knee pain can be due to tight calf muscles! Having tight calves will alter walking mechanics, and can even start to cause problems in the hips and lower back if left untreated. Simple daily lifestyle factors like wearing high heels or sitting all day (and therefore leaving the calves static) can lead to tightness and discomfort.
Our Oakville chiropractor has put together a list of different variations of calf stretching to try. These stretches can all be modified to stretch both the gastrocnemius and soleus. Any of these stretches completed with a straight knee will stretch the gastrocnemius. If you want to stretch the soleus, simple add a slight bend to the knee to target the deeper muscle! If you have any questions, ask Dr. Steve or Dr. Jenn for advice on how to get the best stretch!