In part 1 of this article, I explained some causes and symptoms of trigger points in the deep calf muscle trio of tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus (FDL) and flexor hallicus longus (FHL). One common contributor is walking or running on uneven surfaces such as rocks, sand or imperfect lumpy grass. These are delicious and nutritious surfaces for our feet to ramble across but we wouldn’t want troublesome trigger points to slow us down! In this article, I will share tips on how to massage, stretch and rejuvenate these muscles.
You can access trigger points in two of these deep calf muscles at the junction between the two heads of gastrocnemius (the bulky wide muscle at the top of your calf). You can use your opposite knee or a Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball to burrow in between the space at the top center of your calf. If you aim your knee straight in, you are searching for and massaging tibialis posterior trigger points (Image 1).
In this same position, if you aim the pressure slightly in toward the tibia/inner calf you are accessing trigger points in flexor digitorum longus. Using the same technique, but placing the knee about a third of the way up the calf, you can access flexor hallicus longus by applying pressure toward the fibula on the outer calf.
Tibialis posterior can also be accessed at the medial edge of the tibia (shin bone) by placing pressure using your thumb or Yoga Tune Up Therapy Ball one hand breadth below the tibial tuberosity (the little notch an inch or so below your knee cap) and one finger breadth medial to the medial edge of the tibia (inner side of shin bone) (Image 2). It shouldn’t take much searching to find out if there’s a trigger point dwelling there!
Once you massage these muscles, they should be more relaxed. This is a great time to stretch and utilize them! To stretch tibialis posterior, bend your knee, bring your foot up and out to the side. With the foot angled up and out, place the ball of your foot on a Roll Model® ball, half foam roller, or rolled up towel/yoga mat, resting your heel on the floor. I like using the ALPHA Ball because it’s bigger and gives a deeper stretch. You can alternate this stretch with resistance by pressing the ball of your foot down and inward.
To stretch flexor hallucis longus, place your big toe on a Roll Model® therapy ball with the rest of the foot staying on the floor (Image 3). To lengthen flexor digitorum longus, place all toes except your big toe on the ball, with the rest of your floor on the floor, and focus on a stretching a couple toes at a time. To add a strengthening/PNF component, press the toes down into the ball for a few seconds.
Moving your toes and feet in various directions will help wake them up and condition them to be called upon when you need them. I like to do the following Yoga Tune Up® exercises for these muscles; Big Toe/Little Toe Isolations, Barbie Doll Foot and Dandasana with Ankle Circles. See how to do them in the video below!
Though it can be challenging to transition to barefoot or minimalist style shoes, and use them on rocks, logs, dirt paths, etc…I highly recommend it to help invigorate the muscles in your calves and feet that may have fallen asleep on you! The techniques shared in this article can help you build the strength and dexterity for the challenge 🙂