Fabulous legs, that is what all of my lady athletes have this summer!! They have “Buns of steel” and great looking calf muscles. They all wonder why they have such developed booty’s and I tell them because that is where all there power comes from and if you don’t have the strength there your ankle and foot are at risk. And nothing is worse than a calf strain or tendonitis because then there is no more walking or running. Sometimes it is so bad that you can’t even push up onto your toes without pain in your calf.
Muscles in this area of the body are turned on by eccentric activity. Eccentric activity is an elongating contraction of a muscle. Muscles react to gravity and ground reaction forces and then motion happens and the proprioceptors are then turned on. Proprioceptors tell the muscles and joints where they are in space and what needs to be done next.
There are twelve muscles of the lower leg that are multi-joint muscles that keep the calf working efficiently. Four of them specifically are significant. These muscles of the calf are the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus which form the Achilles tendon on the backside of the calf region and the Posterior Tibialis and the Peroneus Longus, which insert into the foot region with complex sites of insertion. These four muscles then respond to the ground reaction forces on the foot and then the information goes all the way up the chain to the hip and the spine.
This is where the hip becomes so important. The hip musculature is very powerful and has to work in three planes of motion. These muscles have to function in the sagittal, frontal and the transverse plane. It is due to this level of need that the hip has to integrate so strategically with the ankle and the foot. Without the strength in the hip region, the ankle and the foot are at risk. Often when there are shin splints, whether posterior or anterior shin splints or Achilles tendonitis you must look up the chain to assess what is going on in the hip. Usually there is a weakness in the hip musculature that must be addressed. Often it is in the gluti where the weakness is present. The lateral gluti are particularly needed when you are in single limb activities. The amazing thing is that when you start training the gluti they absolutely power up the lower extremity and the likelihood of injury decreases significantly. A “sleepy butt” puts you at risk and you have to address this functional deficit and facilitate the firing pattern of the hip.
Physical therapists are specialist in assessing the hip and lower leg function. They know how to test for “Achilles hip” deficits and their job is to help you be able to train for full return to walking, jogging, running, jumping etc. Don’t wait till you have shin splints, tendonitis or a tear of the Achilles tendon, come in and get your hip and lower leg function assessed and let them set-up a training program for you. You too should have fabulous legs this summer.
Sheree DiBiase, PT is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy and she and her staff can be reached for an evaluative consultation at (208) 667-1988 and in the Spokane Valley at (509) 891-2623.