A calf strain occurs when you tear your gastrocnemius or soleus muscle, the two largest muscles in your calf. Calf strains can be mild, resulting in minimal functional limitation, or severe, causing excruciating pain and limiting your ability to move or bear weight on the affected leg. Yoga stretches may help prevent and rehabilitate calf strains. If you have a calf strain, consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a yoga practice.
The symptoms of a calf strain vary based on the type of strain. A grade one strain is the mildest type of calf strain, generally resulting in less serious symptoms, such as twinging sensations and tightness or aches in the days immediately after your injury. With a grade one strain, you usually can continue your regular activities with minimal limitation, although a full recovery can take a few weeks. A grade two strain, the most common type of calf strain, involves symptoms such as sharp pains in the back of your leg, pain while walking, swelling, mild bruising and persistent feelings of tightness or aching. A grade three strain is the most serious type of calf strain, usually causing severe pain, serious functional limitations -- including an inability to contract your calf muscle -- bruising, swelling and a visible bunching of the muscle near the top of your calf. Recovery from a grade three calf strain can take up to three months.
Benefits of Yoga - Prevention
Yoga may help prevent calf strains by stretching the Achilles tendon, soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. In "The Athletes Book of Home Remedies," Dr. Jordan Metzl argues that improving flexibility in your calves and Achilles tendon is the best way to prevent calf strains. Two yoga stretches that may provide benefits for preventing calf strains include the downward-facing dog pose, an inversion that helps stretch your calves, hamstrings and upper body, and the big toe pose, a standing forward bend that stretches your calves, hamstrings and upper thighs.
Benefits of Yoga - Rehabilitation
In an article for Physioroom.com, physical therapist Marc Bernier of the Alabama Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center states that gentle stretches can generally be performed after the first few days of a calf strain, as long as the stretches do not cause or exacerbate pain. Yoga poses that gently stretch the backs of your calves include reclining big toe pose, a stretch that uses a yoga strap to assist in the stretching of the entire back of your leg, and the standing squat, an active pose that helps stretch your calves and strengthens your Achilles tendon.
If you think you have a calf strain, consult your doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or self-treat your symptoms. You should not perform yoga or any exercise without the prior consent of your doctor or physical therapist. During the first 24 hours after a calf strain, avoid activities that cause pain or use your lower leg muscles, according to Aurora Health Care.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.