Your calves are made up primarily of the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus muscles which both attach at your heel via your Achilles tendon. This strong part of your lower leg has several important jobs to do that you may take for granted.
Responsibilities of Your Calf Musculature:
1) The muscles of the posterior lower leg (calf) act as powerful plantar flexors of the ankle joint. Plantar flexion describes the movement of pointing/pressing the ball (front part) of your foot downwards. You perform plantar flexion when standing on your tiptoes, depressing the accelerator and brake pedal of a car, walking, and running. While plantar flexing, the calf muscles provide the main forward propulsive force in walking and running by using the foot as a lever and raising the heel off the ground.
2) The Gastrocnemius muscle helps the bigger muscles further up the leg to bend or flex the knee.
3) These muscles help to keep you balanced and upright. They play an essential role in separating humans who stand and walk on 2 legs from other mammals that stand and walk on 4 legs. While standing, these muscles neurologically communicate with other systems in your body to recognize when you start to sway (in any direction) and they are triggered to fire to keep you balanced and standing tall.
Some Problems with Having Tight Calves
Many of our patients have foot pain, heel pain (plantar fasciitis), achilles tendon pain and dysfunction, shin splints, calf pain, knee pain and even hip and back pain. Nearly all have tight calves and this is no coincidence.
Sitting for prolonged hours has the same effect on most people. Sitting at work all day prevents us from being active, keeps your knees flexed and is often associated for woman with wearing high heeled shoes, another evil common to so many workers. The shortened position of the calf muscle makes it tighter over time.
Whether you are aware of loss of flexibility, have foot and/or leg pain, knee, hip or lower back problems, you will likely need to be stretching your calves as a part of the stretching program your chiropractor gives you. There are several ways to do this and each variation stretches a different part of the muscle, so its useful to practice all the stretches for best results.
Test Yourself for Tight Calves
How do you tell if your calves are too tight? Well, if you do sit for hours every day, the answer if probably a big Yes, whether you like it or not. Test yourself by first extending your leg out and pulling your toes back towards you. This stretches your calf and should allow you to bend your ankle a bit past 90 degrees, say 10-20 degrees past it. If you are unable, your calves are too tight!
Try standing then squatting down with your feet hip or shoulder distance apart. You should be able to keep your heels on the ground but most women cannot. The back of your tights should be able to touch the back of your calves without your heels lifting off the ground.
Once we know your calves are too tight, let’s look at some ways to stretch them. Follow the menu further to look at the varied stretches.