Thursday, July 12, 2018

101 on Calf Strains

So I've been thinking about writing this post for some time now but I finally am throwing it together.

In May, my husband and I took a trip to the Dominican Republic for some rest and relaxation away from our four kids. We were celebrating our 16 years of marriage. 

Well, you know you are getting old when you pull a calf muscle on the last day of the trip requiring wheelchair service at the airport! It was not only the severity of the injury that threw me into disbelief but how I acquired the injury. I wish I could say that I was climbing to the peak of some mountain or playing an extreme water sport... but no... I merely jumped a wave at the beach and landed wrong.

Now, I've pulled muscles before. It would hurt and I might have to limp and put less pressure on the affected limb. However, this injury caused such sharp, unrelenting and debilitating pain that froze me on the spot. It took a whole lot of effort to maintain balance and not topple over from all the crashing waves indifferent to my mishap. I could barely move without excruciating pain and yet I needed to make my way back to our umbrella and lounge chair so I could nurse my wound.

There really was no one near me in the water, but a whole bunch of folks laying out on the beach. It must have been high tide or something because the waves were massive. Pride and embarassment prevented me from calling out right away to my husband. I really did not want to draw attention to myself.  Who pulls a muscle on a beach while jumping waves? I peered at his figure in the distance... watching him get his lounge chair ready for a nap. I was sending telepathic messages to his brain... "Come on... look over here... I need you to come over! Don't make me call out!" So now... aren't couples supposed to be so connected that they can communicate without actual words? Well, not in our case. After staring and willing him to come over for what seems like an eternity... and even frantically waving my hands like a mad person... I gave up. I had no choice. I would be stuck out there forever if I didn't call out. Sigh. So I did... reluctantly... but even after he finally looked my way, it took another eternity for him to figure out that I needed him to come out where I was... in the middle of all the waves. Well, I wasn't going to yell out across the sand for all to hear that I was stuck and couldn't move and needed help to get back to our chair. Oh I'm mortified just recalling how ridiculous that whole scene must have looked!

Finally, back in our chair... I then had to doctor myself. Flagged one of the attendants to bring me ice, found pillows for leg elevation, then sent husband to buy an ace bandage for compression and ibuprofen for pain. It was so not fun being the patient and so inconvenient to not be able to bear weight on that leg. We found a random bamboo stick for me to use as a crutch and I had to hobble to dinner and hobble back. It was even difficult to pack that night because shooting pain would freeze me every time I flexed my foot. Even now I have a hard time believing how seriously I injured my leg.
So there are basically 3 grades to a muscle strain:

Grade 1
  • torn muscle affects only a few of the muscle fibers, maybe 10%
  • mild pain and can also get a cramp
  • symptoms last few days to few weeks

Grade 2
  • more fibers are damaged but muscle is intact
  • moderate sharp pain at time of injury
  • may have resultant swelling and bruising
  • will limp due to pain and weakness
  • symptoms lasts 4-6 weeks
Grade 3
  • complete rupture of the muscle
  • pain severe and immediate
  • unable to walk on affected leg
  • considerable bruising and swelling
  • may have bulge in the calf above ruptured muscle
Treatments include...
  1. Rest
  2. Ice
  3. Compression
  4. Elevation
  5. Medication (like ibuprofen/advil/motrin)
  6. Crutches
  7. Heal Pad
  8. Exercises
  9. Sports Massage (by trained professional stretching and preventing scar tissue
  10. Ultrasound (usually by physical therapist to help blood flow)
I was not sure if I had sustained a Grade 2 or Grade 3 strain at the time. Now that I've fully recovered, I believe it was only a Grade 2. But really... I still can't get over that it was merely from jumping a wave!

So I've instructed many patients before about this but I suppose I need to listen to my own advice... the older one gets the more time one needs to warm up and stretch. For sports, yes... but to go to the beach?? See-rious-ly... it is no fun getting old...