Lately I have been suffering from a tightness in my feet and calves, particularly first thing in the morning. Upon investigation my Gastrocnemius (Calf) muscle seems to be the main concern. A common issue among cyclists and runners, and an occupational hazard for me as an Indoor cycling instructor. Read on for more information regarding this condition and how I’m treating it.
Given that my hips were aligned, and my regularity and frequency of running and cycling activities an assessment of the calves quickly identified the issue.
The lower medial trigger point was extremely tender to pressure. This trigger point creates pain that covers the whole of the calf region and will concentrate strongly in the instep region of the foot. It can also extend upward into the back of the thigh.
After further investigation its evident that I have a slight rear foot eversion, which is when the sole of the foot rolls away from the body. I also have a small rear foot Abductor twist, meaning the heel pivots towards the body. I have also been suffering from a tightness in my feet in the morning, which could be the onset of plantar fasciitis. 🙁
Like most people I cant afford a personal masseuse or athletic trainer to regularly rub out the kinks, and tight spots in my muscles. But there is a way to massage myself, with the benefit of being able to control exactly where and how much pressure to apply. Foam rollers, massage balls, and massage sticks are the answer. This is commonly referred to as trigger point release, the technical term is self-myofascial release (SMR). The general idea is to massage the muscle thereby relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood circulation and stimulating the stretch reflex.
I used the Hybrid Stick to massage my calves. I hold the stick with both hands and use it to rub along the full length of my calf muscle. I start at the base of the knee and go down to the top of the Achilles in a controlled motion, and then back up. Below is an instructional video on how to use it. After self- myofascial release I do the following stretches:
- Start on your knees, placing your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart.
- Walk legs back until your knees are no longer bent, raising butt to make a triangle with the ground.
- Keep spine straight, not placing too much weight on hands and arms.
- Bend right knee, push your left heel into the ground, to feel stretch.
- I hold the position for 10-20 seconds then switch to the other calf.
- Stand facing a wall with arms straight hands flat against the wall.
- Keep right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend left leg straight back, placing heel flat on the floor.
- Don’t bend back knee.
- Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg.
- I hold for 30- 60 seconds and switch sides and I repeat it twice.
- Stand facing a wall a few inches away.
- With one foot, put toes on the wall, keeping your heel on the floor and flex.
- You can also do this using a curb or step and hanging heels off the ledge.
- I hold for 30-60 seconds then switch sides.
- Sit comfortably on the floor.
- If the backs of your legs are really tight and you find yourself slumping, sit on a pillow so you can keep your spine straight.
- Fold right leg in and reach left leg long.
- Wrap a yoga strap or Theraband (or an old tie or belt from your bathrobe) around the ball of left foot.
- Use the strap to pull toes toward head.
- Do not jam knee into the floor, keep left heel on the ground.
- I hold this for 30-60 seconds then repeat on the other side.
Over to you!