A torn gastrocnemius muscle is a severe injury to the back of the calf area of the leg. During a muscle strain, the muscle tissue fibers disengage and separate slightly. An excessive strain can tear this tissue so that any strength imparted by cohesion of the muscle fibers is lost. Muscle strain symptoms may develop immediately or over time due to systematic overuse. Muscle weakness, tissue inflammation and leg pain can be addressed through home and medical treatments.
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Bed rest is aimed at putting no weight on the affected gastrocnemius muscle for the first 48 hours, according to the National Institutes of Health. Leg pain and debilitation are usually so great when a muscle is torn that rest becomes a mandatory treatment by default.
A calf muscle strain that tears will produce copious local swelling, accompanied by leg pain and possible muscle cramps or spasms. Applying a cold pack immediately after injury to the gastrocnemius muscle will help contain the inflammation and provide pain relief. The NIH pronounces this therapeutic treatment safe to use up to eight times a day, until swelling is gone and to address remaining aches and pain during recovery.
The Cleveland Clinic lists over-the-counter drugs and corticosteroid injections as treatments for the acute inflammation caused by a muscle tear. Nonprescription aspirin or ibuprofen is effective for moderate leg pain, while a doctor-administered shot in the affected muscle tissue may be necessary for otherwise uncontrollable pain.
Use of Leg Aids
Rest should end and movement should begin as soon as swelling fades, but the calf muscles take significant stress during weight-bearing motion. The University of Buffalo Sports Medicine group suggests supportive treatments to prevent further injury. Wearing a compression bandage on the affected muscle and using a cane or crutches to relieve weight stress are all recommended.
Returning to exercise gradually will ease the gastrocnemius muscle and the rest of the body back into strength and fitness. A professional physical therapy exam and exercise program take the guesswork out of meeting individual needs without causing re-injury. The NYU Langone Medical Center suggests applying hot packs before rehab stretching and exercise.
A torn calf muscle can heal on its own, but in cases in which pain and weakness persist, surgery may be a valid option. As the NYU Langone Medical Center notes, magnetic resonance imaging tests help doctors decide whether or not an operation is necessary to a patient’s recovery.