Several weeks ago I went to a massage class that focused on the lower leg and foot called “Neuromuscular Therapy and The Dynamic Foot”. Seemed appropriate, since I recently have been working with several clients on calf issues, and often am working on someone with foot/lower leg problems.
In general I think that I know a lot about the legs, but there is always more to learn (I learned that the Plantaris muscle – in the calf – has the longest tendon in the body. See this illustration – the muscle is red and the tendon is white) , or to be reminded of. This class reminded me of the deep calf muscles that are so hard to palpate. The Soleus is one of these, as is the Tibialis Posterior.
One can palpate the Soleus a bit at the lateral and medial sides (around the larger and more superficial Gastrocnemius). You can check this pic to see some of the muscles I am refering too – and in this instance, how the Soleus sort of peaks out at the edges of the Gastrocnemius and the Achilles Tendon. Also, when one massages deep into the Gastrocnemius, one is indirectly working on the Soleus below it. Sort of like a 2 for 1 massage.
The Tibialis Posterior is even more difficult to access. It can really only be worked on by working on the muscles that lay on top it – the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus.
The calf, as with other areas of the body, has many layers of muscles. Some muscles are superficial, some deep, and some even deeper. When I am massaging I am usually working on several different muscles, and not just one.
During a massage I think about all the individual muscles I am working on. I actually sort of imagine what they look like in my head. (I really needed to take a cadaver class – where one dissects a cadaver – so I can get a better idea of what all the muscles really look like.) I think about the superficial muscles immediately beneath my hands, as well as the muscles that are even deeper below. Toss in the tendons (which attach muscle to bone) that I palate and the overlying fascia that surround all muscles, and there is a lot to think about.
So when I am massaging you, it is never just one muscle that I am working on. And it is usually not just one muscle that is the problem when you have pain. There is lots going on, and hence lots for me to think about when I am giving you your massage.