The calf consists of two muscles known as the gastrocnemius (gastroc) and the soleus.
The gastroc muscle is responsible for creating traction on the backside of the shin bone to pull it upwards toward the back of the thigh to bend the knee. The role of the soleus muscles, on the other hand, is to maintain stability and posture while walking.
Association Between Calf Tightness and Back Pain
When the calf muscles tighten, there is difficulty in straightening the knee while walking. This causes restricted movement in the knees as well as the hips, which ultimately shortens an individual’s walking stride.
As the calf muscles tighten, they can reduce movement at the ankle joint. This can limit the range of motion in the ankle, which shifts the body’s centre of mass forward. This causes muscles in the lower back to overwork in order to maintain an upright posture, gradually leading to an abnormally deep low back curve.
Calf tightness and low back pain can be caused by flat feet. When the foot arch flattens on the ground, it creates a chain reaction in which the shin and thigh bones twist inwards. This places excessive stress on the knees and hips, causing the hip angle to increase and tilt forward.
As a result, the spine becomes increasingly curved, leading to low back pain.
Flat feet can set off a ‘domino effect’ on the rest of the body that causes compensatory lower body movements, further increasing stress on the calf, thigh, hip and low back muscles.
In some cases, calf tightness may cause a flatfoot posture. Since there is restricted movement in the ankle and knee, the shape of the foot arch is forced to flatten in order to make up for reduced ankle range of motion. Over time, this causes a flatfoot posture to develop which can add more stress on the lower body.
Treating Calf Tightness and Low Back Pain
Examining an individual’s walking stride is important to identify problems in lower body movement that could stress the calf muscles. Foot insoles such as MASS4D® can be prescribed as part of a treatment programme for lower body conditions associated with weak foot posture.
MASS4D® foot orthotics support the feet in their optimal posture and help restore normal range of motion in the foot and ankle. The insoles help promote alignment from the feet up and minimise compensatory movements to alleviate stress from the calf muscles and low back.
MASS4D® insoles help support foot movements and functionality for improved overall wellbeing.
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Pilates refers to a series of exercises that target the core – the abdomen, obliques, lower back, inner and outer thigh, and so on. The movements involved in pilates also help to improve flexibility and posture while promoting core stability.