Tight calves cause and
contribute to all sorts of pain. Calf and leg pain, foot, knee and hip pain, low back pain, upper
back pain, neck pain and headaches.I kid you not. I
see it every day I'm at work.
Tight calf muscles cause more lower
body pain and debility for more people than almost any other single thing. It's not an obvious connection but
once you start stretching your calves, you will see what I mean.
Our hearts are by far the hardest working muscles in our bodies.
Ceaselessly pounding away for every second of our lives. If you built a dam wall across the headlands of Sydney
Harbour and plonked a human heart on top of it and ran a hose down into it, that heart would pump the harbour
dry in the average lifetime. That's how hard our hearts work. Incredible!
2nd hardest workers
A long way behind our hearts and a long
way ahead of all our other muscles are our calves. Our calves are by far
the second hardest working muscles in our bodies.
The back works harder
All the muscles at the back of us work a whole lot harder than the muscles at the front of us
because of the way we are designed. Our intendancy is to fall forwards, not backwards. We are
designed to move forward but also to curl, crumple or collapse forward.
Arch backward as far as you can and you'll have a slight to moderate curve. Arch forward as
far as you can and you'll curl up in a ball.
Energy and effort
So the greatest effort in keeping you upright is expended by the muscles at the back
of your neck, torso and legs.
Because of leverage, the closer you go to a fulcrum, the more energy or effort is required to
effect the lever.
Height x weight x leverage
Think of it like this. If you take a pole that is the same weight and height as you. If you
hold it upright with one end of it on the ground and one of your hands at shoulder height and tilt the pole over
at 30 degrees, you could hold it there for hours, maybe even all day. Easy.
It's all about leverage
Now, if you slide your hand right to the bottom of the pole so your hand is touching the
ground, and you lean the pole over at 30 degrees, how much harder is it to hold it there? It's harder alright,
much, much harder. Because of leverage.
Our amazing calves
And there are your calves, right at the bottom of the 'pole' - you, tirelessly working day in
and day out, keeping you upright. This in itself is a humongous effort but it's not even half the story.
Your calves are also the chief muscles of locomotion, your ability to walk or
run around. Stop for a minute and think about how much time you spend walking around. How many steps you
have taken in your life, how far have you travelled on foot?
70 million steps every 20 years
We take about 5 to 10 thousand steps a day. At the lower end of the scale that's still over
1.8 million steps a year. At the higher end of the scale, it's more like 3.5 million steps! Every
year. So if you're fairly active, that's over 70 million steps every 20 years!
If you're in you 80's that's in the vicinity of a quarter of a billion steps!
No wonder you may feel a bit weary by the end of the day.
No wonder our calves get tight!
Now think about each step. From a standing start you transfer all of your weight onto,
say, your left leg and swing your right leg forward. Before your right heel strikes the ground, your left
calf muscles have been engaged and start contracting to lift your left heel off the ground and continue the
The muscles of your right leg contract to take the weight as your mass passes over the
top of it.
As this is happening, your left heel is moving higher, smoothly transferring your weight up
the outside of the sole of your foot to the front third of your left foot. The force then swings
across towards the base of the big toe.
Swing and pivot
As it does this the foot pivots on the area where the long bones of the feet, the
metatarsals, meet the toes, the phalanges, hence the name, metatarso-phalangeal joints.
Head honcho toe
The first MTPJ at the base of the big toe is the most important of these. It takes most of the
weight as you continue forward and it, and the big toe, provide the fulcrum and power to continue your
Again and again
As you keep moving forward, the right calf takes up tension and starts to lift the right
heel off the ground to continue the cycle. Again and again and again....
If you have bunions or gout you'll know just how important the first MTPJ is because when they
are playing up, it hurts like crazy to walk.
The point here is that your calves do the lions share of moving you forward when you
walk. They are what lifts your foot, from back to front, off the ground and propels your forward,
whenever you walk anywhere.
They areunsungheroes in our lives. All of
the muscles of your legs, indeed of your whole body, are involved in locomotion but none works harder
and has such an important role, as your calves.
Look after your calves
Look after your calves, they have a large bearing on the quality of your life. More than you
think. Whether or not you have back pain but especially if you do. The older you get the more important it
That right calf
Whenever I treat, I always check a persons calves, regardless of what their presenting problem
is. Almost everyone has tight unbalanced calves. By unbalanced I mean that one is tighter than the other. And it
is almost always the right calf that is tighter. Almost always.
If you have one calf that is tighter than the other, a torsional effect is created
that almost always effects the pelvis and low back, and usually the rest of the body as well.
Typical Strain Pattern
The twisting effect causes the Typical Strain Pattern. I see this pattern all day, every
single day that I'm at work. It has been there in most of the people that I've ever treated for
chronic and recurring muscle joint and back pain. So there's a fair chance that you may have it too. At the very
least you will have a variation or elements of it.
Rarely do I see a problem in the lower half of the body, low back, pelvic, hip or leg pain,
that does not have this typical strain pattern or a variation of it. And it's usually there in upper body
Learn this one thing
Understanding this strain pattern and how to deal with it may be the single best thing you'll
ever learn about eliminating or reducing and better managing your pain.
People often say to me “How can I have
tight calves, I walk around all day”. Well, there’s the answer, they walk around all day, (and never stretch).
Muscle tightens up in response to strong or prolonged use, and that is exactly what standing or walking for much
of your day is.
The answer to this age old dilemma is
usually very simple.
Stretch your calves for a few
minutes, a few, or more times a day.
Some is good, more is better.
The sorer your feet and the tighter
your calves, the more you need to stretch.Simple as
that. I love the simple stuff that works!
If you stretch a few times and your
feet still hurt, don’t give up, do more, lots more.
Give it heaps
Up to every hour or so. Stretching your
calves is quick, easy, effective, convenient and free. What more could you ask for? You just have to
remember tokeep doing it.
Use high frequency and low to
moderate intensity – do lots of stretches, not very hard.
Low back pain
And what's more, calf stretching will also
reduce or relieve much of the chronic or recurring lower back pain that so many people suffer.
You beauty. It sounds too simple, but it
works. It really does, for most people. If your back hurts, diligently stretch your calves.
Burn ache hurt - stretch stretch
If your feet burn, your legs ache or your
back hurts, stretch and stretch and stretch your calves. Some is good, more is better.