What Soleus Muscle Pain Involves And How To Treat It
You've probably experienced soleus muscle pain at one time or another, especially if you're a person who does a great deal of running. If that's the case, the pain you've experienced you've probably simply called a sore calf muscle. Soleus muscle pain and calf muscle pain are not exactly one and the same thing however. If you have pain in the soleus muscle, you will indeed feel it in your calf muscle, but a pain in your calf muscle isn't necessarily soleus muscle pain. What we call our calf muscle is actually three different muscles, the soleus muscle, the plantaris muscle, and the gastrocnemius muscle. Of the three muscles making up the calf, the soleus muscle is the largest and the strongest.
The Calf Muscles Most Likely To Be Injured - Of these three muscles, the plantaris is somewhat of a vestigial muscle, which in a sense means it doesn't do a great deal in the way of work, and therefore isn't apt to suffer any kind of a strain. In the rare instance it does, the injury can be somewhat difficult to diagnose. It is then, the soleus and the gastrocnemius calf muscles that will most often be the cause pain of or soreness in the calf. The gastrocnemius muscle is most highly subject to being injured or strained, as it is a long muscle that crosses two joints, the knee and the ankle. The soleus muscle only crosses the ankle joint, and is therefore is somewhat less likely to be injured. It's safe to say that most of the time we injure a calf muscle it's the gastrocnemius muscle that has suffered the injury.
Determining Which Muscle Is Affected - It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether it's been the gastrocnemius muscle or the soleus muscle that has suffered a strain, since the two muscles are so tightly positioned together. The usually way of determining which muscle has the problem is to flex the knee. The soleus muscle is located entirely below the knee. It starts at the upper part of the calf and terminates where it attaches to the Achilles tendon. The upper portion of the gastrocnemius muscle on the other hand, lies above the knee, and it is therefore is the more active muscle when the lower leg is fully extended. A therapist can usually determine which of the muscles has the problem by noting at what point discomfort is experienced as the knee is moved or flexed.
Common Causes Of A Soleus Muscle Strain - If it is the gastrocnemius muscle that is more apt to be injured, why should we be concerned about the soleus muscle, especially since it is such a strong and relatively deep muscle, lying as it does beneath the gastrocnemius muscle? The reason lies in the way in which the soleus muscle is being stressed. Runners who spend most of their time running on level ground are generally not apt to experience soleus muscle pain. However, a cross-country runner, or a marathon runner will most likely do a certain amount of running uphill. When you run uphill, your knees are bent to a greater extent than usual, and a great deal of added stress is then placed upon the soleus muscle. The muscle can be damaged by what might be considered normal wear and tear, or it could suffer a sprain during an uphill run if the stress suddenly becomes more than the muscle can handle.
It's not just uphill running that can cause a problem. Different runners have different running styles in terms of body position and alignment. Improper body alignment when running, or even walking long distances, can result in an imbalance of stresses being placed on the leg muscles, including the calf muscles. The result can be sore quadriceps, sore hamstrings, or sore calf muscles, in which case it is most likely the soleus muscle that is involved. Even holding the head in an improper position while running can eventually create a problem in the soleus muscle, since the muscles in the posterior or back portion of the legs have to compensate for the head being carried too far forward.
Treatment - Treatment for a soleus muscle strain is much the same as for most other muscle strains, and for the more mild strains generally involves nothing more than resting the muscle and gently exercising it periodically, which helps it to heal more rapidly. Initially the RICE method, rest, ice, compression, and exercise, is the best course of treatment. Rest and light exercise should be continued until the healing process is complete, and massage can be therapeutically useful as well. The most important thing in dealing with soleus muscle pain is not to attempt to “work through it”. That will only make matters worse, and perhaps much worse. A mild soleus muscle strain may take 2 or 3 weeks to heal to the point where one can continue exercising or running as before. A more severe strain on the other hand can sometimes take months to heal. In summary, soleus muscle pain is something that should never be ignored or taken lightly.