Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Being infamous for a quick pain known as a charlie horse, the GASTROCNEMIUS! The gastrocnemius is located with the soleus in the posterior (back) compartment of the leg. The gastrocnemius is primarily involved in running, jumping and other “fast” movements of leg, and to a lesser degree in walking and standing. Along with the soleus muscle it forms the calf muscle. Its function is plantar flexing the foot at the ankle joint and flexing the leg at the knee joint. Causes of charlie horses (muscle spasms) can be improper stretching, muscle fatigue, low magnesium or potassium, dehydration and over-exhaustion of the calf muscles.
When getting a charlie horse you can stretch it with resistance. By keeping the knee joint straight (in extension), and flexing the foot towards you place the opposite leg’s heel on top of the flexed foot to provide a surface to push into. This is one of the easiest and most effective stretches when you are in bed experiencing a leg cramp.
Stretching throughout the day and after extreme activities is highly recommended. With your hands or elbow leaning towards a wall, have one foot closer to the wall and the other extended behind you have your feet flat on the floor. The back leg should be straight behind the knee and you will feel a pull in your calf muscle. If you don’t feel the pull step further away from the wall and lean over further into the wall. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds then switch sides.
Self massage using a tennis ball or foam roller is a great way to work out the kinks and hypertonicity of the muscle.