Gastrocnemius Referred Pain Pattern

Gastrocnemius Muscle: Trigger Point Pain

The gastrocnemius is the large muscle of the calf. Trigger points in the muscle cause pain in the back of the knee, pain and cramping in the calf, and pain in the arch of the foot.

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Gastrocnemius Muscle

Where Is The Gastrocnemius Muscle?

The gastrocnemius attaches to the thigh bone (femur) 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  (calcaneus).

What Movements Does It Control?

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

For detailed anatomy information: Gastrocnemius Muscle Anatomy

Gastrocnemius Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

  • Pain in the arch of the foot
  • 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 lower leg
  • Cramps in the calf
  • Occasionally pain on the outside of the heel

TWD Recommends

Neo G Medical Grade VCS Calf Support/Shin Splint provides support and warmth to the lower leg muscles. This brace is recommended for Achilles tendon strain or sprain, and also strains, sprains and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. An excellent choice for compression and support of the lower leg muscles. If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots consult your doctor before using this brace.

What Causes Gastrocnemius Trigger Points To Develop?

  • Pain in the arch of the foot
  • 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 lower leg
  • Cramps in the calf
  • Pain on the inside of the foot in the high arch
  • Occasionally pain on the outside of the heel

TWD Recommends

Sore shins or calves? Feel as if shin splints are coming on? The ProStretch Calf Stretcher & Foot Rocker can help! The stretcher/rocker stretches and helps to relax most of the muscles in the lower leg and foot. Used by physical therapists to treat sore shins and calves as well as foot pain and planter fasciitis.

Gastrocnemius Trigger Point Treatment

The gastrocnemius can have several trigger points in the muscle. This does not mean all are active and causing symptoms, but you will need to check for and treat any that are causing pain.

A massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor with trigger point therapy training can show you how to find and treat TrPs in the muscle.

Another option is learning the treatment yourself. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent resource for learning all about trigger points. You will learn how to find and treat trigger points in muscles throughout the body. If you are interested in learning the cause and effect of muscle trigger points, you should have this book.

The book recommends several tools to use during treatment. The most versatile of the suggested tools is the Thera Cane Massager. The cane can be used on other muscles, including those that are hard to reach, like the muscles of the back and bottom of the feet.

The Knobbler is another tool that works well on the gastroc muscle. The Knobbler is used to apply precise pressure to a trigger point and is used on other muscles that you can easily reach.

The last tool used on the gastroc muscle is a massage ball. You place the ball on a stack of thick books on the floor. Then, you lie on the floor with your lower leg on the ball, supporting your body with your arms and roll the ball up and down the leg. This method works very well, but you must have the arm strength to support your body weight and be able to get down on the floor.

Gastroc trigger points need several 1-2 minute treatments spread throughout the day. Continue the therapy until the area does not produce pain or symptoms when pressure is applied.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. If you have reoccurring leg or foot cramps you should keep Somba on hand, it provides almost instant relief. (Not sold in stores)

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain-relieving gel recommend 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. If your pain is from a recent injury use Biofreeze. It is excellent to use on sprains, strained and sore ankles.

Interesting facts:

  • Unresolved pain in the high arch of the foot is the primary symptom of gastroc dysfunction.
  • Trigger points and a short tight gastroc muscle is a prime source of lower leg cramps or ‘charley horses’.
  • Body chills due to extreme cold or illness will cause the gastroc to shorten and tighten causing lower leg pain.
  • The gastroc is the muscle that gives the calf its shape.

Gastrocnemius muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

  • Leg cramping at night
  • 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
  • Ruptured Achilles’ tendon
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Plantar fasciitis

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Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

Satellite trigger points associated with the gastrocnemius:

If you find TrPs in the tibialis posterior, check these muscles for additional trigger points:

  • Soleus
  • Biceps Femoris
  • Semimembranosus
  • Semitendinosus

TWD Recommends

Lower Leg Compression Sleeves are used by many athletes. Compression sleeves provide compression, support and warmth without adding bulk to the lower leg muscles. Sleeves are recommended by athletic trainers for shin splint, strained calf muscles and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. Sleeves are also great as a preventative measure against shin splints and tired sore calf muscles after sports activities. Compression sleeves are also shown to reduce recovery time after strenuous activities and injury.

Note: If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots consult your doctor before using compression sleeves or braces.