Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:
Muscle soreness in the calves after walking is often due to two things: Muscle tightness and or muscle fatigue.
If you have tight calf muscles, they can become sore after long distance walking. One solution is to stretch your calf muscles after your walks using the traditional runners stretch or by placing a strap around the ball of your foot and pulling back to feel the stretch in your calf.
Muscle fatigue is usually caused by doing too much too fast.
If you are just starting a walking program and you are not accustomed to walking, say, for 30 minutes, your muscles can tire easily. You can gradually get your muscles into game shape by starting with a 15 minute walk and increasing the time or distance by five minutes until you reach your desired goal.
When your muscle soreness occurs can determine your stage of injury.
- If it occurs after walking, while resting, this is normal muscle fatigue. Usually stretching will help.
- If the pain begins during the walk, it is your body giving you a signal to rest. You should stop at that point and use that as your target distance. This may be a sign of over doing it.
- If the pain comes on when you start walking, hold off on walking for 2-3 weeks and start again when you are pain-free. This may be a sign that you are developing an acute muscle tendonitis.
To improve your fitness, you should strive to walk for a minimum of 30 minutes a day or 60 minutes every other day.
— Richard Szabala PT, OCS
Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.
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