Why You Should Stretch Your Calves


Why You Should Stretch Your Calves


Your calf muscles, also known as the gastrocnemius muscles, are located in the back of your lower legs. These muscles course down your lower leg from behind your knee and join the soleus muscle to form the Achilles tendon, which attaches to the back of your heel bone.


The Function of the Calf Muscles

Your calf muscles help to point your foot downward, as if you were stepping on a brake pedal in your car.


When you are walking, this muscle group helps to propel you forward with every step. Since the calf attaches to the back of the knee, it is also active when you bend your knee. This muscle group can also work with your quadriceps and hamstrings muscles to help straighten your knee when your foot is planted on the ground.


Common Injuries that Involve Your Calf Muscles

Since the calf muscle crosses both the knee and the ankle joint, an injury here can cause significant functional loss, especially with walking and running. Common injuries that involve your calf include:


  • Calf strain
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Calf muscle spasm
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Heel bursitis


Other conditions may cause tightness in your calf. For example, if you have had a stroke, you may be experiencing spasm and tightness in the back of your legs. Sometimes, conditions like Parkinson's disease or spinal cord injury can cause calf muscle spasm as well.


Treatment for many of these conditions may involve strengthening and stretching your calf muscles to restore normal strength and mobility. A visit to your physical therapist can help you decide on the best treatment for your specific calf injury.


Over the years, conventional wisdom has been that stretching muscles prior to athletic competition and exercise can help limit or reduce injuries.


More recent research is indicating that muscle stretching before exercise may not really reduce injury. Nonetheless, stretching muscles before exercise can help ensure that your muscles and joints can move freely during your workout or athletic competition.