What is the Gastrocnemius Muscle and How Do I Treat It?

Compression Sleeves to treat the gastrocnemius muscle

Gastro-what? You've just found out you have an injured gastrocnemius muscle. This probably happened at the same time you found out you actually have a gastrocnemius muscle. So let's answer all your questions about this topic. Ready? Here we go!

What is the Gastrocnemius?

While it may sound like some sort of upset stomach problem, the gastrocnemius is a leg muscle located below the knee. Flanked by the soleus and plantaris muscles, the three combine to make up what is commonly referred to as the calf muscle. It's used for walking, but it's more important for running.

What Does the Gastrocnemius Do?

According to Healthline, "The flexing of this gastrocnemius muscle during walking and bending of the knee creates traction on the femur, pulling it toward the tibia in the lower leg and causing the knee to bend." In other words, the gastrocnemius is a huge part of your running gait, and an injury to it, even a slight one, can make both walking and running difficult.

Why Does the Gastrocnemius Muscle Get Injured?

Gastrocnemius Muscle

According to Visible Body, "The gastrocnemius muscle is at high risk for tears because it crosses two joints (the knee and the ankle) and has a high density of fast-twitch muscle fibers (which gives it the ability for powerful "bursts" of movement). Sometimes when the gastrocnemius is being overworked, the muscles will contract or snap quickly, like a whip, which is why gastrocnemius strains are sometimes called "snap of the whip." Symptoms include sudden, sharp pain, bruising, and an inability to walk well."

I can tell you first hand that it is not a fun injury. Mine occurred during a basketball game. I turned to get back on defense, planted my right leg and when I pushed off to start my sprint you could audibly hear the pop and the pain was immediate. It also kept swelling until it looked like the injured calf was almost twice the size of the healthy one. At first I thought it was my Achilles that tore since the injury seemed to occur in the same region and we often hear about people hearing the pop when that tendon is torn. But the swelling was all in the calf region and it turned out it was a gastrocnemius tear. Crutches in the winter are always fun!

Grades of Calf Muscle Strains

Pain will likely be your guide in determining the grade of your injury, but it never hurts to see a doctor. An MRI or ultrasound can definitively determine the proper grade of your injury. Physio Works details the different grades of strains:

Grade 1:

Grade one calf muscle tears are a result of mild overstretching resulting in some small micro tears in the calf muscle fibers.

Grade 2:

Grade two calf muscle tears result in partial tearing of your muscle fibers. Full recovery normally takes several weeks with good rehab.

Grade 3:

A grade three calf tear is the most severe calf strain with a complete tearing or rupture of your calf muscle fibers.

How Do You Prevent Gastrocnemius Muscle Injuries?

- Stretching. The gastrocnemius is like any other muscle in the body. If it's overworked and not stretched correctly the odds of an injury skyrocket.

- Rest. You can run through a mild gastrocnemius muscle injury if it's just a small strain. This assumes you are dealing with a grade 1 strain.

- Compression. We highly recommend compression socks and/or compression sleeves for both treating your injury but also preventing it.

Using Compression for Gastrocnemius Muscle Health

Run Forever Sports Pink Compression SleevesCompression is great as it works on a number of levels. It can be used for treating pain and injury but also helps to prevent injury. Compression improves blood flow, which is a key in keeping muscles loose and ready to work. Run Forever Sports Compression Sleeves feature professional grade compression which helps decrease pain as well as swelling. They also decrease muscle vibration by "hugging" the calf muscles, which in turn creates more stability as you run.

Our customers simply love Run Forever Sports Compression Sleeves. Here's a quick sample of the more than 2,500 reviews we've received for this product.

Lauren M: "I am very impressed with these calf compression sleeves. I'm new to long distance running and am currently training for a half marathon. I will definitely be bringing these along for my race. They help ease any soreness I acquire during training and aid in the recovery process. I would highly recommend."

K. MacQueen: "I have worn the compression hose for a couple of weeks now. The difference in how I feel is amazing! These things are great! The quality is really good- and the amount of compression seems to be right! Also- It was really helpful that a "how to" video for on/off was in my e-mail before they arrived! Thumbs up for this product and company!"

Cat: "Purchased for my husband who is on his feet all day. He didn't think they would help but he was surprised when they did! Now he wears daily and swears by them. His legs feel much better!"

So now you know about your gastrocnemius muscle and how to treat and prevent gastrocnemius injuries. Make sure to get your Run Forever Sports Compression Socks and Compression Sleeves to keep those calves healthy and supported!