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calf heart attack

Posted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:45 am
by dilluh
I pulled up with a calf strain on an easy run today (no strides or weird footing or anything). A very similar thing happened to me about three years ago and I went through a frustrating cycle of feeling like everything was perfectly healed up after a week and I’d go out for a short easy jog and after a few miles I’d feel a cramping sensation in the calf and have to stop. A friend of mine recommended this article to me and it worked exactly as stated. The issue is often not a full-on pulled muscle but a micro-tear deep in the gastroc. Once it heals, it feels fine to walk on but there is still restriction around the muscle sheath that can spasm during normal exercise and feels like a knot or a cramp. This is due to blood restriction to the affected area, not likely re-tearing of muscle.

I could’ve cut off a full month on my recovery time if I had learned about it sooner. It's a very tricky little injury that can grow into a major frustration if not properly treated. I've had far more significant (and painful) muscle pulls heal in half the time it took to finally nail this one. ... age=single

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:13 pm
by jbarts
I've seen that article before, and I like it a lot. I've had multiple calf issues since college (graduated in 2008) and only in the last six months have I (apparently!) nixed the issue once and for all. It took a lot of time to figure things out, and the calf is a tricky muscle! Every now and then, despite my efforts, I feel it getting a tad tight again...which means I'm in the danger of straining...BUT with exercises/massage I've been able to keep things at bay.

I guess that's my long winded way of saying...I also wish I had found that article sooner!

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:55 pm
by BoilerTom90
I missed my prime adult running years due to calf injuries that I just couldn't shake. It was roughly a 10 year span of run a little, tear them both, attempt to heal for months, etc. Very frustrating.

I finally found a good chiropractor (per the advice of a PT that didn't know what to do after months of therapy) that got me back on the road. I've found this article invaluable during my recovery, and still do: ... ching.html

The other thing I do is wear knee-high compression socks rather frequently when I feel stiffness setting in.

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 11:21 pm
by Tinman
I used to get tears in my calf muscles when I wore running shoes that had a medial post or when I wore orthotics. As soon as I got rid of them and started over with a good neutral shoe that had some cushion but it was not mushy, my calves felt better and I no longer got tears in my calves. Also, anytime you have injuries, stay off hills, start your run very slowly for 15-20 minutes, and ice your legs after you run.

Take care,
coaching available

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 3:36 pm
by cav1979
This is an extremely frustrating injury and seems to be common for male runners once they hit their 20's and on. Like BoilerTom I struggled with this injury for almost 10 years and saw numerous doctors, therapists, and specialists to no avail. I read the calf heart attack article a while back and it definitely matched what was happening to me, but no shoe, sock, calf stretch, or massage would keep it from coming on. I almost gave up until I saw someone that took a nontraditional approach and solved my problem. I believe it may be the answer for most people, but it's counterintuitive and rarely given.

The first step was not stretching the calf or massaging it at all. The next was increasing flexibility in my hip flexors and self massaging my glutes to get rid of any knots or trigger points. Additionally, it was suggested that I get my target weekly mileage through 6-7 days of running instead of 4-5. The reasoning behind these suggestions was that tight hips result in the calf doing more work than they should. It will take on extra work that other muscles are supposed to do until it can't handle the workload anymore - that's when it finally cramps up. The reason most of us have tight hips and possibly trigger points in glutes is because we sit all day. The older we get, the tighter we get from the increasing amount of sitting between being at a desk all day and commuting.

Personally, after a month of stretching my hip flexors 2 times a day the calf cramps started to disappear and a nice side affect was my stride became smoother and running at 6:50 pace went from feeling mechanical to effortless. I also would self massage my glutes with a lacrosse ball for 10-20 minutes each night. If one of my calfs started to feel tight I would usually find a knot in my glute on the same leg. As long as I really worked it out, which would be painful, the calf would feel fine the next day. Within a year I went from 20-40 miles a week to 60-80. In 2 years I was running 80-90 with some great workouts from Tinman and PR'd at 10 miles and ran my first marathon. I've since taken a break from intense training, but I ran for 2 straight years without an injury in my mid 30's. This was a huge accomplishment because starting at age 19 until I stopped running at age 24 I would always seemed to be hit by a significant injury every 1.5 years.

I hope that helps!

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 10:36 pm
by Clell
I've shared this with two long time runners that have had calf issues in the past. They are very appreciative of the insight.

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 1:56 pm
by shug
I really appreciate this insight.

After a quick self-assessment, I am certain that this is the underlying cause of my own struggles with chronic achilles/soleus pain.

It makes me question the connection with sitting and why so many western runners wear some form of calf compression. It seems so rare to see the Ethiopian/Keynan runners wearing them.

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:44 am
by cav1979
I'd add that I never had issues until I got into college and had summer jobs where I sat most of the day. There's a reason why most high school kids do not have calf heart attacks. They have tightened up enough.

Below are 2 versions of the hip flexor stretch that worked best for me.

I'd also recommend Ready to Run by Kelly Starlett. A lot of "real" runners are probably turned off by him because he's a crossfit guy but there is some great info about self massage and mobility in his book. The VooDoo floss band compression was very helpful for me. If you learn how to self massage and treat yourself you'll never have to pay for a massage again. You'll recover faster and increase your odds of staying injury free.

Good luck!

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:53 pm
by edusson

My quick answer: Do not cross your legs while sitting.

The long one: I know, it looks really lame! The famous article explains exactly what used to happen to me and how I used to recover (ramping up slowly...). Trying to prevent it was a different issue. Nothing I did correlated with or stopped this from happening. Stretch or not (before and/or after), hydration, warming up or not (before and/or after), compression socks, deep tissue massage, the stick, rest, no rest, change shoes, physio...). Whatever I did, I would get one every 3 to 6 months for almost 10 years. Boy that was frustrating.

Then, one day, I realized that when I cross my legs, left over right, the right knee puts pressure on the left calf, right on the spot where I was getting the problem (by the back of the left knee). I used to spend all the day sitting and crossing the legs was a natural way. Also, funny enough, I never cross the right over the left and hence I never had that issue with my right leg!! I stopped crossing my legs 2 years ago and I have been free of that injury since then! This so far seems to be the only correlation and certainly I am not planning to cross my legs just to check it is not! :)

PS.: The only other thing may had been a butt stretch (the kind that you bring your bent leg to your chest). But I think that wasn't working either in the past. The crossing the legs really seems to be the one.

PS2.: It would be interesting to know if the other folks with this problem do have a position where they put pressure over long periods of time on the spot.

Re: calf heart attack

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2018 12:23 pm
by dkggpeters
Calf strains are my nemesis. I had one occur miles into a Marathon is which I was in the greatest shape of my life and had zero issues or anything pointing to that it was possible through the entire training cycle. I have also had numerous strains in the past and after that. If caught early I could still continue to train if I was careful.

What I was told by my PT was that the fascia that sits between the two calf muscles would stick not allowing the muscles to glide over each other causing the slight tear. I was instructed to stretch it, roll it out, and to do negative heel lifts.

That reminds me that I need to start doing negative heel lifts a few days a week to help prevent it from happening again.