The Soleus is one of the muscles in the calf. It is an extremely strong muscle, and also double up as the main muscle involved in pumping venous blood back to the heart. It runs from the ankle to just below the knee. As you might imagine for a muscle in that position, it is used for standing, walking and running, and just about any exercise or activity that requires you to be on your feet and moving around.
For this reason, soleus muscle strains and pains are something that all runners will experience at some point or another, particularly if they are following a regimen that involves a lot of going up and down hills. Soleus pain can be a real problem if you get it since the soleus is the muscle that keeps us upright when we stand – it gets extensive use, even if you aren’t running or dancing.
Because the muscle has a thick covering, anatomically speaking, it can be relatively quite prone to compartment syndrome. This is an inflammation problem that can also lead to compression of the nerves, blood clots, and muscle atrophy. For this reason, and of course, because you can’t stand up without it, soleus muscle pain must be taken pretty seriously. By that I mean it is imperative that you stop running or whatever exercise seems to be causing the pain, and seek treatment.
In many cases, rest is the only thing that is required. Those who continue to suffer are often the ones who are simply not resting for long enough to ensure the muscle is healed before re-commencing exercise, and then following the same regimen that caused them injury in the first place. Don’t be a fool!
Look into it, have your gait checked, check your running shoes are doing everything they can for you. Examine your schedule? Is there some excessive hill running, for example, that you can cut back on whilst you get your Soleus healthy again?
Remember, there is no need for this to be a catastrophic injury. Like any muscle, once it is healed you can target it and the surrounding muscles with specific exercises that will help to strengthen the muscle and improve its suppleness so that you will be able to return to the higher-strain routine again if you take your time and don’t overdo it. It’s like anything else, it will only become a problem if you allow it become one. It’s such an important muscle that it should be given special attention if it becomes strained or injured. It’s simply not a case of running through it or pressing on and hoping it gets better, or even just taking a little rest. Make sure you take exactly the amount your physician or physio suggests and only return to exercise gradually and carefully.