Calf Massage

Massage can help treat and prevent calf muscle strains. Here we explain how to apply sports massage techniques to the calf muscles and lower leg.

The following is for information purposes. We always recommend seeking professional advice before attempting treatment.

Sports massage for calf strains

It is important to check for contraindications, especially Deep vein thrombosis before attempting massage.

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  • After the acute stage of healing has passed, massage will help stimulate blood flow, mobilise the muscle fibres, and release areas of muscle spasm.
  • Another major benefit of massage, particularly in the latter stages, is to soften newly formed scar tissue and help align new fibres.
  • A skilled massage therapist may also to identify tight areas of the muscle at risk of future injury.

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to massage calf muscles

  1. Check for contraindications

    Always check for contraindications, especially Deep vein thrombosis to ensure it is safe to perform sports massage.

  2. Positioning

    Position the patient on a firm base, preferably a massage table. Lie face down with the feet relaxed, either by supporting with a rolled towel, or allow the feet to hang over the end of the massage table.

  3. Light effleurage

    Begin with ‘effleurage’ techniques. These are light stroking techniques which begin to warm up the tissues ready for deeper techniques.

  4. Deep effleurage

    As above, but gradually working deeper into the tissues. Do not go so deep that the patient tightens up with pain as the benefits will be lost.

  5. Petrissage

    These are a variety of kneading type techniques. Work as deep as is comfortable. Over time, as the injury improves massage pressure can be increased. Alternate petrissage techniques with effleurage.

  6. Tapotement

    These are optional precussian type techniques. Some therapists may choose to use them, but probably only in the later stages of recovery.

  7. Finishing

    Return to light effleurage techniques to complete the massage.


Massage contraindications

A contraindication is something that means massage is not safe to perform, or make cause more harm. In particular, when massaging the calf muscle you should be aware of:

  • Acute muscle strains – massage should not be applied to recent muscles strains. During the first 24 to 72 hours following a calf strain appying massage will make your injury worse, increase bleeding and prevent healing. How long the acute stage lasts will depend on how bad your injury is.
  • Deep vein thrombosis – also known as DVT. This is a blood clot in the calf muscle area. Symptoms may be similar to a torn calf muscle, however DVT pain is more likely to be constant. If in doubt seek medical advice as soon as possible. If you massage a blood clot, it might break loose with potentially fatal consequences. DVT is relatively common, especially if you are overweight, aged 50+ or have poor circulation.

View all sports massage contraindications.

This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.

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