+Donna Martin
Nov 102012

 What symptoms and pain are associated with the gastrocnemius?

Pain pattern of the gastrocnemius muscle.

Pain behind the knee, inside the calf, the inside ankle and the arch of the foot are indications of gastroc dysfunction.

  • Pain toward the outside of the back of the knee
  • Pain toward  the inside of the back of the knee
  • Pain going down the inside of the inside of the lower leg
  • Pain around the inside ankle
  • Pain on the inside of the foot in the high arch

Where is the gastrocnemius muscle?

The gastrocnemius attaches to the thigh bone just above the back of the knee, runs down the back of the leg joining into the Achilles tendon which continues down to connect to the heel.  The gastroc is the muscle that gives the calf its shape.

What movements does the gastrocnemius muscle control?

  • Standing on your toes
  • Pointing your toes
  • Assists with bending the knee

Activities that cause gastrocnemius pain and symptoms:

  • Walking uphill
  • Climbing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Cycling
  • Jumping
  • Wearing high heels
  • Tight banded socks or stockings
  • Using footstools and recliners that put pressure on the back of the calves
  • Immobility of the lower leg due to a cast or brace

Interesting facts about the gastrocnemius

The gastrocnemius is the large calf muscle found in the back of the lower leg.

You use the gastroc muscle when you stand on your toes, point your toes and bend your knee.

  • Trigger points and a short tight gastroc muscle is a prime source of lower leg cramps or ‘charley horses’.
  • Chills when you are sick will cause the gastroc to shorten and tighten causing lower leg pain.

Clinical diagnoses to which this muscle symptoms may contribute:

Nocturnal cramping, Tennis leg, Post exercise soreness, Posterior compartment syndrome, Buckling knee syndrome, Dislocation/Subluxation of the knee, Torn lateral meniscus, Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), Thrombophlebitis, Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), Superficial vascular thrombosis (SVT), Varicose veins, Rupture or torn Gastrocnemius, Muscle sprain/strain of the calf, Baker’s cyst, Rupture Achilles tendon, Achilles tendinitis, Plantar fasciitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the gastrocnemius:

Help with Gastrocnemius Muscle Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides pain relief.

Warm Therapy Gel For Lower Leg and Knee Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and in my massage therapy practice. It provides warmth without burning heat and is great for relieving pain.  Applying Sombra to the muscles on the back of the leg and to the inside of the leg to the ankle and inside the arch of the foot can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the gastroc muscle. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain old injury pain and pain from arthritis.

Cold Therapy Gel For Lower Leg and Knee Pain

Biofreeze is recommended for recent muscle injury

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I recommend it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. Rub Biofreeze over the back and side of the lower leg, down into the ankle and inside of the arch. If  your pain is from a recent injury I would recommend Biofreeze.

Hot / Cold Wrap For Lower Leg Calf and Shin

Multipurpose Hot & Cold Wrap - Works on your Calf If you have chronic pain from an old injury or participate in activities that strain the lower leg muscles the Multipurpose Hot & Cold Wrap  can be used to apply heat or as an ice pack. It works on the shin or the calf wrapping around the leg with a Velcro closure. The packs can be stored in the freezer for cold therapy or popped in the microwave for heat. Use this on the gastroc muscle to ease pain in the back and side of the lower leg.

Purchase Information: Multipurpose Hot & Cold Wrap


Support Braces For Gastrocnemius Calf Muscle

Back on Track Therapeutic Calf Brace 

A brace used by many athletes, the Back on Track Calf  Brace provides support and warmth to the lower leg muscles. This brace is recommended for achilles tendon strain or sprain, and strain, sprains and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots consult your doctor before using this brace. Purchase information: Back on Track Therapeutic Calf Brace


Professional’s Choice Miracle Knee Support

The gastroc muscle can contribute to stiff knees and knee pain. The Professional Choice Knee Support is one of the best knee braces I have used. It provides support to weak buckling knees and provides heat to help keep the muscle, ligaments, tendons and joint mobile. The two Velcro bands are adjustable and provide compression for the muscle to bone connection of the gastroc muscle.  Although it looks bulky, it is comfortable and was made for people who ride horses who bend and straighten their knees for extended periods of time. It does not bind or pinch. If you are prone to knee injury and buckling knees I highly recommend this brace.
Purchase Information:  Professional’s Choice Miracle Knee Support


Massage Therapy Self Treatment For Low Leg and Knee Pain

The Trigger Point Workbook can help you resolve muscle pain throughout your body.

Do you know that a knots in the gastroc muscle can cause knee, ankle and foot arch pain as well as lower leg pain? If you have any of these symptoms  I  recommend that you purchase Claire Davies  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Mr. Davies explain the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language.  But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain, how to find the trigger point and treat it. He also provides stretching and strengthening exercises for each muscle. If you suffer with unresolved lower leg, heel, and low back pain I highly recommend this book. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help with muscle pain throughout the body. Relieving trigger points in the gastroc muscles may help you resolve your leg and knee pain issues. This book is a must have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

Anatomy Study: Origin, Insertion, Action and Innervation of the Gastrocnemius Muscle

Origin: Medial head: the depression at the upper and posterior part of the medial condyle of the femur and continuing behind the adductor tubercle to a slightly raised area on the popliteal surface of the femur, just above the medial condyle.
Lateral head: area on the lateral surface of the lateral condyle of the femur and to the lower part of the corresponding supracondylar line.
Receives the tendon of soleus on its deep surface to form the Achilles tendon to attach to the middle of three facets on the posterior surface of the calcaneus
Action: Plantarflexion of the foot at  the ankle, assists with flexion of the leg at the knee.
Innervation: Tibial nerve S1-2

Primary Actions:

1. Plantarflexion of the foot at the ankle

  • Agonists: Soleus
  • Antagonists: Tibialis Anterior

2. Assists with flexion of the leg at the knee

  • Agonists: Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus
  • Antagonists: Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius, Rectus Femoris

Satellite Trigger Points: Soleus, Hamstrings

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