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Thigh & Calf Injuries

Thigh and calf injuries typically involve strains and tears to the muscles. Some of the most common include:

Hamstring Injury

A Hamstring Injury is a tear to the tendons/muscles at the back of the thigh, which run from the pelvis through the knee to the top of the calf. Athletes are most prone to this injury as these muscles are not in action during standing or walking but are needed to bend the knee during activities such as running, jumping and climbing and can easily tear with sudden movement. This can be felt or heard as a pop accompanied by pain in the region. The muscle will then go into spasm.

Most hamstring injuries will be treated through a rest and rehabilitation approach called the RICE method. This consists of:

  • Rest – It is important to rest the leg completely, which may include one week of immobilisation depending on recommendation from your doctor. Severe tears to the hamstrings may require a longer period of rest. This prevents further damage and scar tissue from forming around the injury.
  • Ice – Applying an ice pack to the site of injury for 20 minutes at least four times a day in the first few days after injury helps reduce pain and swelling.
  • Compression – It is unclear how effective compression is in treating hamstring injury but it reduces swelling and excessive bleeding and in some cases it can help to reduce pain.
  • Elevation – Using a cushion to support your leg in a raised position as you sit or lie down will also help to reduce pain and swelling

 

Over the counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol will provide temporary pain relief while the injury heals.

Surgery is usually only needed in the rare case of an avulsion injury, where the tendon is completely torn away from the bone and needs to be reattached surgically to the pelvis.

Calf Muscle Strain Injury

Strain to the calf muscles occurs when the muscle is overstretched and this causes the muscle fibres to become torn. This injury is commonly suffered as a result of strenuous physical activities, including sports.

Calf muscle strains can be divided into three grades of severity. A grade one strain presents with cramp and tightness in the calf and there may be pain upon stretching or contracting the muscle. A grade two strain results in a sharp, instant pain and the calf is often painful to the touch with some bruising evident after a few days. With a grade three strain the sufferer will not be able to move without experiencing considerable pain and there may be a bulge of soft tissue showing through the muscle layer.

The RICE method as listed under the Hamstring Injury section of this article is also the most effective method of treatment for a calf muscle strain injury. Depending on the severity of the strain the rest period should be between several weeks and several months.

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