A gastrocnemius sprain is sometimes referred to as a “tennis leg” because the injury can commonly occur when tennis players perform a lunge shot and the “push off” sprains the calf. Most people will report it as a calf sprain but sometimes the soleus may be strained. Other sports such as football and basketball also pose a risk in players developing a calf sprain. If the muscles are over tired, overworked or if the calf muscles are very tight, all can increase the risk of injury.
What causes a calf sprain?
A direct blow to the calf can also cause a sprain. The main symptoms are bruising, swelling, weakness, stiffness, pain and tenderness. The pain is exasperated when pushing off the foot or standing on tip toe. In severe cases, there could be a popping sensation if muscles have become torn.
It can take up to 3 months for a calf sprain to heal
Generally speaking, physiotherapy and western medical treatment involves recommending rest and athletes are advised to avoid any movements that may aggravate. Inflammatory medications are prescribed and then gradual stretching and strengthening is introduced. It can take from 2 weeks to 3 months for a calf sprain to heal depending on the severity.
Acupuncture, moxibustion and external application of Chinese herbs can greatly accelerate the healing outcome of a calf injury.
A calf sprain can be treated with acupuncture and is covered by ACC
In New Zealand, calf sprains are covered with acupuncture by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) when the acupuncturist is a member of Acupuncture NZ. There are over 600 members throughout New Zealand.
In the acute phase, a Chinese acupuncture technique known as bloodletting can be commonly used where a sterile lancet is used to prick specific acupuncture points that reduce swelling and pain.
Mr Daniel Deng, a well-known acupuncturist and lecturer of acupuncture in Sydney uses the blood-letting technique a lot. He said “Inferior physicians recommend icing the injured calf. This only has a temporary numbing effect and slightly reduces the acute pain. It has no benefit to healing the injured tissue at all. In fact, it hinders the recovery process because the cold stagnates and blocks blood circulation. Of course when I tell this to my injured athletes in Sydney, they look at me as if I am mad”. Daniel Deng used to treat many elite athletes in China. He went on to say “Only a few drops of blood are taken but it can make an incredible difference”
The Acupuncture Clinic in Napier has sponsored Daniel Deng to deliver acupuncture workshops in Christchurch and Auckland. As well as bloodletting techniques to treat calf sprain, Chinese herb applications can also be used on sports injury sprains. The herbs are boiled up and then the injured area, whether a foot or calf is bathed in the warm liquid. Sometimes a tea towel is soaked with the liquid and wrapped around the area.
Many athletes have difficulty understanding that the liquid must be warm so as to encourage the ingredients of the herbal medicines to penetrate into the injury initiate the healing response. The external use of Chinese herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine is known as die da.