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Saturday, June 23, 2012

A once very fast runner halted by an unexplained case of calf pain

Lorraine Moller winning
London Marathon 1980
"Good morning I am French from Montpellier,I have 53ans today; I am coach himself with the principles of A.LYDIARD since 1984. 

In 1985 I made 15 ' 04 " / 5000m, then 14 ' 40 " in 1986 in 1987 I was hill, in 1988 2h24' ', then 2h21' in 1989. In 1990 j was stopped by a wound the origin of which we have never found I was hardly I gained(won) a competition of very good level and dices the next day I had my left leg very very heavy to the effort; I made of numerous examination and I eventually made(eventually was made,eventually happened,eventually was) 2years after operated for the syndrome of muscles legs but without result); 

I think today that my probleme was purely mechanical but nobody knew how to see; With internet we are lucky magnifical to be able to communicate with people like you which(who) was friend to A.L for which I had a very big admiration. Can be had you a case similar to mine in your knowledge? 

In any case thank you and bravo for your blog. Be you the husband of Lorraine Moller? Has the time(period) in 1984 I had seen her marathon AVON in Paris. remember...... sincerely yours Jeff"
Jeff, Wow!  You were a fast runner!  You must be very frustrated not being able to run freely anymore.

Jeff: Me be not the husband of Lorraine Moller.  She be my younger sister.

While I do not have a photo of her winning Paris, the photo above is of her winning the London Avon Marathon in 1980.  I have asked her if she has one from the Paris Marathon.

The calf problem you describe is an interesting one that I have encountered many times, mostly in runners, so your inquiry is timely for writing an article.

Blood is returned to the heart almost
exclusively by muscle contraction.
Unexplained calf muscle pain/dysfunction with feelings of heaviness may be due to poor circulation through the muscle.  This may be due to a combination of factors which I will explain as best I can....

At rest, the circulation of blood through muscle and back to the heart is from the action of the heart.  As activity begins and increases, the rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the muscles progressively takes over the role of returning blood back to the heart.  So, when an athlete is exercising at maximum heart rate, one can presume that that muscles are almost exclusively responsible for flow back to the heart, while the heart is responsible for the flow from the heart to the muscles.

An athlete with healthy blood vessels and pliable muscles will find their heart revs quickly in response to exercise.

With repeated extreme exercise that may span over many years, the muscles become hard and scarred.  This is in marked contrast to the soft and pliable muscles of a well-conditioned young person.  A soft, pliable muscle will be engorged with oxygen rich arterial blood when in the relaxation phase of exercise.  When it contracts, the blood will be forcefully and fully ejected towards the heart.

Muscle that is hardened and scarred will be increasingly resistant to filling with fresh arterial blood.  This may be seen as an increase in systolic blood pressure during rest and as exercise intensity increases. The heart must contract with excess force to get the blood into the muscle.  When the muscle contracts only a small amount of blood is ejected.  The heart will be slower to respond to exercise stress.

This may partly explain why an older athlete's heart is slower to respond to exercise demands.  What typically happens when the gun goes off is the young runners take off like bullets, while the older runners tend to gradually wind into the race and, hopefully, mow down the youngsters as the race progresses.

A further factor in the loss of circulation, heaviness and pain may be the gradual process of blockage of the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the legs.  This may occur at the groin or the back of the legs.  This may include tearing and scarring.  Please refer here:  Zinc deficiency is as good as universal in athletes.

Jeff, I am assuming that the surgery you had was decompression of the calf muscle.  Here's an article about this syndrome that I wrote in 2007:  While surgery may have given temporary relief, I am not surprised it has been of no long term benefit.  

This problem may typically occur after an intense run in a pair of unfamiliar shoes, such as switching to spikes or racing flats, doing hill-bounding, track work or a road race.  Something like this may have set off the first episode of feeling very, very heavy in the calf muscle.  That earlier run causes acute spam of the calf, and consequent muscle damage with consequent swelling and, therefore an increase in pressure within the muscle.  The restricted blood flow that results will cause the leg to feel very heavy and non-functional when trying to run the next day.

The remedy for your calf muscle dysfunction may be quite simple really!

Here's the action I recommend:

Get a weekly deep tissue massage of the calf muscles

This is painful for the first 3-4 sessions but this should ease dramatically with regular sessions.  Each session will last about an hour with attention focusing on any areas that feel hard or deformed within the muscle belly.  The muscle will quickly soften and, with each session, blood flow through it will improve.

Get these essential nutrients into your body

The muscles need massive amounts of magnesium and co-factors in order to function properly, including to relax and contract.  You may also need vitamin C and zinc.  A Hair Tissue Analysis removes the guessing as to what nutrients an athlete needs.

Question: Should you wear compression stockings or tights?

No! In my opinion - unless you have bad varicose veins.  Tight stockings do not allow the calf muscles to fully engorge with oxygen-rich arterial blood, due to the compression effect of the stockings during the relaxation phase of contraction.

If there was a survival advantage from having tight skin, then natural selection would have it that all creatures that require the combination of speed and endurance for survival, including Human Beings, would have natural, inbuilt compression tissues in their skin - The fact is they don't and the reason is clear - tight enclosures of muscle compromises circulation.

About this website
The advice in these articles is given freely without promise or obligation.  Its all about giving you and your family the tools and information to take control of your health and fitness.

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