The gastrocnemius muscle is the large muscle located at the back of the calf on the lower leg. This muscle is active when flexing the ankle, as you would when pointing your toes, and bending the knee, thus making it an integral muscle for walking and running.
Gastrocnemius can become chronically shortened or tight due to overuse, poor body mechanics and poor stretching habits. This can lead to painful conditions such as Achilles tendinitis, pes planus (or flat feet), plantar facciitis, and posterior compartment syndromes. Proper stretching of this muscle is especially important if you often walk or jog, or are involved in other athletics such as soccer, basketball, dance etc. Strengthening the gastrocnemius muscle is also important in preventing injury. Muscle strengthening will ensure that the muscle will be strong enough to handle increased use.
Learn How to Stretch Gastrocnemius
The Iliotibial Band or ITB is not a muscle but a lateral thickening of the connective tissue (fascia lata) surrounding the thigh. It runs down the side of the thigh from the top of the hip bone to the side of the knee. The ITB functions to stabilize the knee during walking and running.
The ITB can be a source of knee pain, especially in runners. ITB Contracture, a shortening of the band, and ITB Friction Syndrome, inflammation where the ITB crosses the knee joint, are both common problems associated with the iliotibial band. Causes of these conditions vary, but are mostly associated with overuse in activities such as running, cycling, horseback riding, long-distance driving etc., postural dysfunctions and poor stretching habits.
Visit the Library for more ways to stretch the ITB.
The Quadriceps muscle group is located at the front of the thigh. We use the quadriceps muscles while walking, running, standing and when moving into a seated position. Tension or shortening of the quadriceps can sometimes contribute to knee pain. It is important to stretch the quadriceps muscles regularly to avoid muscle imbalances and the development of postural dysfunctions.
Jocelyn M. Van Ryn is a Registered Massage Therapist in Peterborough, Ontario and has owned and operated Peterborough Massage Therapy Clinic since 2012.