Runners quite frequently suffer from reoccurring strains, cramps, spasms in their calves and hamstrings. Sometimes you can fix it with massage and stretching exercises but what if it keeps coming back and causes problems in your training? Or even worse hinders your running performance?
Well it could be due to a tight sciatic nerve! If a muscle stretches or cramps to the point where it feels like it is going to tear, it is most probably neutrally tight. This is a protective mechanism the body follows to allow us to realise that something has gone wrong. Pain is a warning system that a tissue is going to be damaged if we don’t do something about it. This is why neurological tightness happens. If we start mobilising the nerves, then this can help release tension in the muscles and will reduce the risk of injury.
Tight calves also cause pronation. If there is limited dorsiflexion at the ankle joint it has to come from somewhere else, for example the sub-talar joint. This can also cause shin pain, Achilles pain and knee pain. So by moving the sciatic nerve and releasing the calves through some self-myofascial release can help prevent all this from occurring. Foam rolling the calves is good, but sometimes to get the neural tension, it is better to hold a tender spot and relax on it for a minute or so until the pain dissipates.
For those of you who cramp up in your hamstrings, it has been proven that releasing your plantar fascia can help. If this fascia becomes rigid, it can release the connective tissue further up the body. Think of the body’s fascia as a train track, if one part of the track is broken, the other bits won’t work efficiently and the train will crash! The muscles have a strong connective tissue called fascia that (I like to think of it as very thick skin!), that is a network all the way from your head to your toes. So if you have thick skin in the foot this will limit the amount of movement you have not only in your hamstrings but your calf too. It is all linked! A way of releasing your plantar fascia off is using a hard ball and standing on it. You can also release the hamstrings too in the same way. I usually hold the ball into a tender area of the muscle and hold the pressure until the pain subsides, then I move onto another trigger point.
So here it is, some good tips on how to release the neural tension from your calves and hamstrings by mobilising the sciatic nerve and doing some self-myofascial release. The body is very complex, so if this doesn’t work for you, it may be due to a biomechanical issue involved in your running technique. For example, a rotated pelvis can cause all sorts of problems with the upper and lower body. It is always best to get help when picking up an injury as us Sports Therapists can do all the necessary assessments involved in the gait cycle and functional movements. So if you are in pain, do not ignore it, book in to see a Sports Therapist and get pain free now!
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