I was on a run this past weekend, about 5 ½ miles into a 7-mile trek, when my right calf tightened up on me.
If you’ve ever walked or run in your life, a tight calf muscle will show you just how much of our bodily functions we take for granted when moving about. I paused and did some massaging of the muscle along with a light stretch. Luckily, I was able to run the rest of the way without making it worse or any additional pain.
In this situation, most people would focus on the troubled calf muscle, which makes sense. Ice, stretching, massage, foam rolling and occasional muscle / joint / bone tweaks are all part of the package when you’re a regular in any running-involved sport.
But, here’s the thing: My right hamstring had been a bit tight that day, too.
Our body parts work in what we call the “kinetic chain.” While an imbalance, weakness or other issue in one area can sometimes trigger an acute message from the body to the brain — like knee pain if you tear your ACL (which is in the knee) — our bodies often do something else: it helps us by compensating for the weakness, rather than telling us to fix it.
If your left knee is having issues, but you keep using it normally, your body handles that by subtly (or not so subtly) shifting more of the workload of carrying your weight to your right leg. Your healthy right leg makes up for what the left side can’t do, with the implicit agreement that the left would do the same for the right side if / when needed.
The result? Your (now-overworking) right knee, hip and ankle start hurting.
When it comes to my calf tightness, it may be the result of a tight hamstring. The power that my hamstring wasn’t providing still got supplied — by my calf muscle.
Burdened with doing more work than it had signed up for, my calf muscle sent a signal to my brain in the form of an oncoming cramp. Ever the dutiful servant, the calf would never snitch on the hamstring — the real culprit — which is why I’d need to be discerning enough to ask the right question and address the root cause, instead of merely addressing the symptom.
Often in life, the problem is not the solution.
A married couple having a big blow-up over loading the dishwasher is probably not really about dirty dishes.
Perhaps that lazy worker does not lack for motivation and energy; maybe she’s in the wrong job.
A tight calf muscle doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with your calf.
I explain what all this means for you in episode #793: The Problem Is NOT The Solution.
Listen here: http://DreAllDay.com/793