Your Soleus muscle sits underneath your gastrocnemius and tightness can often present as calf/gastrocnemius problems. Recently I had a client come to me in the clinic complaining of calf tightness and discomfort in at the back of his heel. He plays football and pre-season has just started. Like a lot of amateur atheletes, he stopped nearly all exercise when the season finished. When pre-season started there was a huge jump in training load. After talking through what he had been (not been) doing in the past few months it was pretty clear that the increase in training load was probably the cause of his discomfort and tightness in his soleus.
We have created a plan for managing the tightness with treatment and stepping back the training load a bit to something more progressive. In the end, a simple problem which can be easily avoided.
Two things that can be taken out of this case study:
- Exercise needs to be graded when getting back into physical activity. After having a break from physical activity, is when you are in a high risk category of injuring or reinjuring yourself. (A study done by Ausdance showed 14% of injuries occur within 3 weeks of a break from dancing)
- Early intervention is best. Potentially the client could have had a lot of different issues through the 2017 football season if the problem wasn’t rectified early. Knee, glut, hip, lower back problems can all occur from tightness in the lower limb.
More details on the Soleus muscle
Action: Plantar Flexes Foot
Origin: – Proximal half of posterior surface of tibia along soleal line
– Proximal 1/3 of posterior fibula
Insertion: Posterior calcaneus via calcaneal tendon
Innervated from S1, S2 via tibial nerve.
Calf raises are a great way to strengthen this muscle. To target the soleus, have your knee/s bent when performing the exercise. It is important to make sure your knee stays in line with your second toe as you progress through the exercise. You can view a great tutorial, by The Australian Ballet, for this strengthening exercise here.
Lean against a wall with one leg back. Bend your front knee and keep your back one bent as well keeping your back heel on the ground. The more you bend your back knee and lean forward the greater the stretch.
The Soleus is located underneath the Gastrocnemius. The movements it helps with are standing, running, walking and jumping. Mostly made up of type II, slow twitch muscles fibers, which makes it more equipped for posture control. It is important to have a reasonable amount of flexibility in your soleus to perform walking, jumping and running effectively. Reducing the risk of injury and dysfunction. A tight soleus can reduce dorsiflexion in the ankle. The types of problems our Myotherapist sees in the Geelong Clinic are shin pain (shin splints), glute pain and lower back pain. All the way up the the lower back, causing the hip to fold in.
- Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine, 4th ed. Peter Brukner, Karim Khan Sydney: McGraw-Hill Australia; 2012