If you’ve pulled a calf muscle, it can make ordinary activities like walking extraordinarily painful. There is no quick fix for a pulled calf muscle, and depending on the severity of the injury, the muscle will take between 2 weeks and 4 months to heal. Fortunately, there are several home remedies for a pulled calf muscle that offer relief during your recovery. Below are 5 pulled calf muscle remedies that you can do from home. Please note that this article is meant as guidance only and cannot replace a professional medical opinion. Always do what is best for your body.
1. Rest and Ice
The first and most important home remedy for a pulled calf muscle is the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation. A pulled calf muscle must be rested for the first 24 hours after the injury to prevent further damage and begin the healing process. Activities that place strain on the calf muscle should be minimized during the entire recovery, though some activity is good to keep the muscles from atrophying, so don’t use your pulled calf as an excuse to be a couch potato. Ice packs should be applied to the injured area as soon as possible. This can reduce bleeding and prevent tissue damage, making the recovery process quicker. Icing the injured area can also provide short-term pain relief, as well as relieve swelling by reducing the blood flow to the calf. Use ice packs (never put ice directly on the skin) for 20 minutes at a time. In the early stages of healing, you can apply an ice pack in 20 minute increments every two hours. Many sources suggest that after the first few days, you should switch to heated compresses rather than ice.
2. Compress and Elevate
The next element of RICE is compression, which can reduce swelling. Wrap your calf snuggly with an ACE bandage, but not so tight that you feel throbbing. Elevation is another option to reduce swelling. The leg should be propped up so that it is above the level of the heart so that blood flows away from the injured area. Used together, RICE is the most recommended home treatment for muscle strains or tears of any kind.
3. Heel Pads
The shoes you wear while recovering from a pulled calf muscle can affect the healing process. High heels should be avoided, as should flat shoes. An in-between heel height is the best way to keep the muscle in a neutral position while walking. Athletic shoes with a slightly raised heel provide a good support for a pulled calf muscle, so this should be your shoe of choice while recovering. Another option is to use heel pads to provide a slight lift in flat shoes. Heel pads can be purchased at most drug stores.
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4. Strengthening Exercises
After resting for a period of time after the injury, one of the recommended home remedies for a pulled calf is to do gentle strengthening exercises. Start with slow heel raises. Stand straight with your feet parallel and a few inches apart. Slowly lift your heel to stand on the toes. Only lift as far as you can without experiencing pain. Repeat a few times and then rest. With continued practice and healing, you should be able to lift the heel higher and to perform more heel raises at a time. This is one of the best pulled calf muscle remedies for getting you back out on the running trail sooner. Another exercise is sometimes called the “gas peddle.” This can be done with the leg extended out in front of you or extended straight into the air. With the leg straight, you simply point the toes and then flex them. Go slowly at first, and move with the breath. Inhale as you flex the toes toward you, exhale as you point them away from you. Try this exercise with a resistance band for a little more strengthening.
5. Arnica Creams
Arnica is a homeopathic herb that is used to treat muscle pain, and is an effective home remedy for a pulled calf. Arnica is an anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling and improves blood flow to the injured area. Topical creams work best as a home remedy for a pulled calf muscle, though Arnica may also be purchased in an extremely diluted form that can be ingested internally to help ease muscle pains. Check your local health food store or herbal apothecary for Arnica creams, or click on the link below to order products online. Expect to pay about $5-10 for an ounce of Arnica topical cream.
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