Various muscles help support the lower legs in the body and allow movement to the host. The lower extremities include the hips, pelvis, thighs, legs, knees, and feet. At the same time, the various muscles help provide support and stability to the upper body’s weight and incorporate mobility and movement for the entire body to go from one location to another. The legs have two sections connected with the knees; the upper portion has the hips and thigh muscles, while the lower legs have the calve muscles, shin muscles, and the Achilles tendon. The calve muscles have two groups of muscles, and when the calve intense exercises, or normal factors have overused muscles may potentially lead to muscle cramps associated with trigger points. Today’s article examines one of the calve muscles known as the gastrocnemius, how the calves are affected by trigger points and corrective actions to prevent muscle cramps in the calves. We refer patients to certified providers that incorporate various techniques in the lower body extremities, like lower leg and calve pain therapies correlating to trigger points, to aid many people dealing with pain symptoms along the gastrocnemius muscles, causing muscle cramps. We encourage and appreciate each patient by referring them to associated medical providers based on their diagnosis when it is appropriate. We understand that education is an excellent way when asking our providers intricated questions at the patient’s request and understanding. Dr. Alex Jimenez, D.C., only utilizes this information as an educational service. Disclaimer
Have you been dealing with walking from one place to another? Do your calves feel hard or tense with the slightest touch or movement? Or are you feeling excruciating pain in your calves that make it hard to move? These pain-like symptoms are indicators of trigger points associated with the calves affecting the gastrocnemius muscles. The calves are mostly referred to as the posterior portion of the lower legs responsible for the foot and ankle plantarflexion while also engaging in activities like running or jumping. The two muscles that make up the calves are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is a complex, superficial muscle fundamental to good posture or walking. This muscle has a casual relationship with the lower body as it affects hip movement and the lumbar area of the spine. The gastrocnemius provides a round shape for the calves to form and narrows down to the ankles, where it forms a tendon.
Since the gastrocnemius provides the round shape to form the calves when the muscles have become overused or injured in a sports activity, it can cause the individual to have limited mobility. Studies reveal that a tear in the gastrocnemius muscles can implicate lower leg trauma and affect the muscle function to plantar flex the foot at the ankle joint and reduce flexion on the leg to the leg knee joint. When it comes to the development of trigger points along the gastrocnemius muscles that are affecting the calves, according to “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction,” written by Dr. Janet Travell, M.D., the book states that latent trigger points along the gastrocnemius may cause individuals to complain about calf cramps on the legs, however, when the trigger points are active, the individual is aware of the calf pain and would complain about experiencing pain in the back of their knees. The book also mentioned that trigger points associated with the gastrocnemius muscle could be mistaken for other conditions like plantar foot pain or radiculopathy in the sacroiliac joints. When trigger points affect the calf muscles, it can lead to mobility issues and causes people to be unstable when walking.
Have you been dealing with calf pain when walking for a short distance? Do your calf muscles ache or tense up when you put slight pressure when stepping down? Or do you feel that your calf muscles are hard when resting? Many of these issues affecting the calves are associated with trigger points affecting the gastrocnemius muscles. The gastrocnemius muscle is one of the muscles that make up the calves in the lower legs. This complex, superficial muscle provides a round shape to the calves and can become overused in various activities that can cause a person to have limited mobility. When the gastrocnemius muscle is overused, it can develop tiny nodules in the muscle fibers known as trigger points that mimic other conditions affecting leg mobility. The video above shows where this complex muscle is in the calves and where the trigger points are located in the muscle fibers. Trigger points along the affected muscle can cause referred pain while mimicking other conditions that can often confuse people about what they are feeling. All is not lost, however, as trigger points are treatable and can be managed through various treatments.
When the calf muscles like the gastrocnemius are causing symptoms of pain and muscle cramps due to trigger points, there are various treatments and corrective actions that can prevent muscle cramps from causing more issues in the legs and even help manage trigger points from re-forming in the muscle fibers. Some corrective actions that can help improve calve function are gently flexing the foot at the ankle joint to allow the calf muscles to tract and retract to reduce swelling and pain. Other correction actions that people should incorporate to prevent muscle cramping in the calves when they are sitting is to gently rock in a chair to reduce prolonged immobility to the calves and increase blood flow. Studies reveal that dry needling and other various treatments can help reduce muscle stiffness in the gastrocnemius and improve muscle strength in the calves.
The calves are part of the legs that allow plantarflexion at the ankle joint. Known as the gastrocnemius muscle, it makes up the calves’ round shape. The gastrocnemius muscle is complex and superficial as it forms a rounded shape at the calves and narrows down at the ankles. However, when the muscle has been through various activities and is constantly overstretched, it can affect a person’s walking mobility and develop tiny nodules known as trigger points. Trigger points in the gastrocnemius muscle can cause referred pain in the calve muscles and mimic conditions like plantar foot pain to the feet. Fortunately, various treatments and corrective actions can prevent referred pain from re-occurring in the calves and bring mobility back to the legs so a person can continue to their destination.
Albin, S R, et al. “The Effect of Dry Needling on Gastrocnemius Muscle Stiffness and Strength in Participants with Latent Trigger Points.” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology : Official Journal of the International Society of Electrophysiological Kinesiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Oct. 2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33075711/.
Binstead, Justin T, et al. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 29 May 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459362/.
Bordoni, Bruno, and Matthew Varacallo. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 26 Apr. 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532946/.
Nsitem, Virginia. “Diagnosis and Rehabilitation of Gastrocnemius Muscle Tear: A Case Report.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3845475/.
Travell, J. G., et al. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual: Vol. 2:the Lower Extremities. Williams & Wilkins, 1999.
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The information herein on "Muscle Cramps In The Calves? Might Be Trigger Point Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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