Foam Roller for Deep, Sore Pain in My Calves
The deep soreness that you may experience after exercise is from lactate buildup in your muscle tissues. Lactate is a byproduct of glucose breakdown in your muscles, according to exercise physiologist William McArdle. You can use a foam roller, a cylindrical tube 1 to 3 feet long that is made out of dense Styrofoam, to alleviate some muscle tenderness and reduce soreness.
Your calves have two muscles -- the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They assist in knee extension and flexion and move and stabilize the ankle joint, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Most tenderness and soreness in your calves develops in the middle and is caused by fatigue, micro-tears in your muscles and connective tissues and lactate buildup during and after high-intensity exercise.
Foam roller massage is a type of self-myofascial release, or SMR, and it should be performed after a workout to reduce muscle spasms and soreness, suggests the National Academy of Sports Medicine. To do this exercise, put the roller on the floor and sit on the floor. Put your right upper calf on top of the roller and your left calf on top of your right lower leg. Put your hands on the ground by your sides for support. Do not hunch your shoulders. Slide your buttocks backward on the floor slowly as you roll your calf on top of the roller down to your Achilles tendon.
When you find a tender spot in the calf, slightly apply more pressure and gently rub the affected area up and down on the roller along the muscle fibers until the pain goes away. Continue to roll on the inner and outer parts of your calves on both legs until you feel some relief.
Physical therapist Chris Frederick, author of "Stretch to Win," recommends that you stretch your calves immediately after performing SMR. When you stretch, hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds on each leg to promote relaxation in your calves. This minimizes the chance of getting cramps and soreness.
Never perform foam roller exercises if you have open wounds, osteoporosis, skin cancer or other diseases, rashes or high intolerance for pain, says Frederick. Always perform the exercises in a slow, rhythmic manner. Rolling too rapidly can make your muscles and joints contract so they get tighter and more painful.
- "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; Michael Clark; 2007
- "Stretch to Win"; Ann and Chris Frederick; 2006
- Su H, Chang NJ, Wu WL, Guo LY, Chu IH. Acute Effects of Foam Rolling, Static Stretching, and Dynamic Stretching During Warm-ups on Muscular Flexibility and Strength in Young Adults. J Sport Rehabil. 2017;26(6):469-477. doi:10.1123/jsr.2016-0102
- Beardsley C, Škarabot J. Effects of self-myofascial release: A systematic review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015;19(4):747-58. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.08.007
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.