WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN YOU HEAR A "POP" IN YOUR CALF?

What happens when you hear a pop sound in your calf? It means you've strained it. Here's what happened to me.

HEARING A "POP" IN YOUR CALF

I'm no fitness fanatic and don't often experience muscle problems or injuries. I'm not a runner or a gym junkie, and my main way of staying healthy, fit, and mobile is to walk every day - aiming always for those magical 10,000 steps on my Fitbit - and generally enjoying being outside in the fresh air. I've taken my physical health for granted until something bizarre happened at the beginning of December.

We'd just returned from a lovely week of vacationing on the beach - bike riding, walking, and relaxing without a care in the world. Then, on my return home I bent down to pick up a box and as I straightened and turned, I heard a "POP" in the back of my left calf - I'm sure it was an audible pop, or maybe it was internally audible? Whatever, there was a "POP" and I knew that wasn't good.

A "POP" FOLLOWED BY PAIN

Immediately after the "Pop" my calf hurt a LOT and wouldn't support my weight - I had to lean against something and have my husband rescue me by supporting me into the house and onto the sofa. And that was the end me walking unassisted for the next week or so - something so small certainly had a big impact. It was a Saturday afternoon and no doctor nearby was open - and I hate having to go to ED with all the waiting. So, I did what any woman my age does......I checked with Dr Google for what to do next and he was very helpful in diagnosing and advising (I love the internet!)

Often when a gastrocnemius is pulled or strained, a person hears an internal “pop” sound. Soon after the injury, the affected individual will often have a sudden difficulty bearing weight. (via: buoy health)

Apparently that "POP" I heard was my calf muscle tearing, and the first course of action was R.IC.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for 48 hours. So on went the ice pack and up went the leg. I also thought I'd probably need some elbow crutches to get around until I magically healed over the next few days (such an optimist!) So I borrowed some crutches and did a bit of hobbling around over the weekend - which wasn't the smartest thing because I should have stayed off it (Rest!) and allowed the healing to start. Seeing I couldn't put my heel down it was obviously not helping trying to walk anywhere.

when you hear a pop in your calf - grade 2 calf strain
From holidaying in the sun to a Grade 2 calf strain in less than a week

TREATMENT AND PHYSIOTHERAPY

Monday morning saw me at the Physiotherapist for a diagnosis of a Grade 2 tear/strain, and the beginning of the healing process. My calf was taped for support and then covered with a compression tube bandage, with instructions to not walk any distance. The tear needed time to scar over and walking stops that happening, but he did want me to try to keep my heel on the ground, rather than being on my toes on that side. He also told me to avoid anti-inflammatories because they slowed the healing process. So Week 1 passed with a lot of sitting around and thinking that things would soon be on the mend.

Week 2 at the Physiotherapist involved re-taping and more compression bandage - and also checking out the bruising that was progressing down my leg to my ankle (I guess the blood drains downward with gravity). Still no distance walking or stretching allowed - just rest and being gentle on the muscle so it could heal strongly. Sitting around was getting boring and trying to not snack (seeing I wasn't exercising) was also a challenge.

Week 3 was more strapping and compression but I was encouraged to start doing some gentle calf stretching exercises and to get my gait back to normal - heel down, and lengthening my steps a little when walking around the house or at the shops (holding a shopping trolley really helps with steady walking). Christmas was fast approaching and it was good to feel a little more normal - just needing to be careful not to over-stretch, or walk too fast, or walk on uneven surfaces - they made the muscle twinge (not a good feeling!)

Week 4 and things started really improving. I was allowed to start walking around the block - although it was a shorter walk and slower than normal - speed and distance still hurt. The stretching exercises continued, the tape was off and I purchased a calf compression sleeve (in pink!) to replace the compression bandage - it's really supportive and helps me feel more secure as I walk longer distances (and it's prettier than the bandage). It will be in use for the next few months when I'm going for my morning walks, but I don't need anything around the house or for normal daily activities (Yay!!)

calf compression sleeve - for recovery from Grade 2 calf strain

Week 5 and onwards involves more stretching and strengthening. The ultimate goal is to be able to hop on that leg. I thought that I could already hop on it - until I tried and nothing (literally Nothing!) happened - my brain said "hop" and my leg ignored it. Really weird.... So, I'll know I'm fixed when I can hop, and I think that'll be a fair way down the track.

A "POP" IN THE CALF IS A PAIN IN THE NECK (AND THE LEG)

I've talked to a lot of people since I strained my calf - it's one of those injuries that everyone sees - and a lot of people have stories of their own. One friend tore hers when she was snowboarding (a much more exciting story!) and another lady tore hers getting out of a chair! Another guy I spoke to tore his completely when he was pushing a broken down car - he said it sounded like a gunshot when it happened and took many months to heal. I felt more grateful about mine only being a partial tear after hearing that story.

So, I'm on the mend and wouldn't be so far along if it wasn't for my very knowledgeable Physio guy. I'm no expert on calf injuries, but I'm a lot more aware of how easy it is to cause yourself injury without even trying - and the long, slow path to recovery. I took my Fitbit off when it happened because it was too disheartening thinking about how little exercise I was doing, but several weeks later I'm back on track and hopefully any extra Christmas kilos will be a distant memory as I start burning off those calories again.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Any interesting injury stories to share? Have you ever injured yourself doing almost nothing? Another friend told me her husband hurt his back badly when he bent over to pick up a kitten! I love hearing these shared tales - it makes me feel less like an old lady who had "a fall".

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this post should not be taken as specific health advice, it relates only to my own health. I advise you to speak to your own Doctor or health professional if you have a similar injury.



What happens when you hear a pop sound in your calf? It means you've strained it. Here's what happened to me.

What happens when you hear a pop sound in your calf? It means you've strained it. Here's what happened to me.
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43 comments

  1. Oh dear, Leanne, Your title gave me pause. I was hoping you are on the healing side. Ha, ha, Dr. Google, our favourite doctor. RICE has been around forever for good reason. A pop in the calf is a pain in the neck........you are a witty woman. As I keep reading I am glad to hear you are back on track. My latest......carrying my 5 year old granddaughter on the way home from our hike, because she was tired. No fool like an old fool. xx

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    1. Yes we think we're still 30 until something in our bodies goes "twang!" and we remember that there's a bit of wear and tear we need to keep in mind! My exercise class teacher (who's about 55) tore something in her foot last week (also heard a "pop") and is out of commission for quite a while - I think her age and her career as a trainer are starting to collide - especially in the serious gym class world where she hurt herself.

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  2. Good to hear your recovery is going well Leanne. Most of my injuries were caused by doing something active. The current break was caused when my partner knelt down to the dog and his legs went out in front of me. A classic trip up. I don’t talk about it, as he’s been a bit devastated at my injury. #lifethisweek

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    1. Hi Jen - it's like you had a "fall" because it was something so silly and simple that caused it. I think we kick ourselves a bit because it would have been so avoidable if we'd had hindsight - but.....life goes on and recovery (hopefully) comes to us all. I hope your wrist is healing slowly and steadily - and strongly x

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  3. As you know I injured my achilles a couple of months ago. I left it for a month and tried to rest it. THen restarted exercise and re-injured it. So I had some treatment, but then as it hadn't improved much they suggested xrays. I couldn't be bothered seeing my doctor though so left it again for a month and rested it. Then restarted exercise. And then slipped over (in some water my godson spilled) and hurt it again. There's a lump inside the ankle near the joint that's been there for a couple of months so I'm FINALLY seeing my doctor this coming week.

    I read this and realise you've had it treated properly whereas I've done some very stupid and lazy things!

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    1. Hi Deb - I seem to always avoid treatment if I can (trying to save $$ is my mantra) but when I couldn't walk I knew I had to do something or risk being on crutches indefinitely. My husband did his Achilles tendon 18 months ago and kept trying to re-start running before it had healed - which of course delayed the process and if he'd rested it and got some proper treatment sooner who knows what would have happened. Good luck with the doctor's visit - and maybe some physio will be in your future??

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  4. Glad to hear you are on the mend, Leanne. I've never had an injury from running but I did put my back out just pulling the sheet up to make the bed! It was two days before we were due to fly to the US and of course sitting for 13 hours was not what the Dr ordered. Sometimes it is the littlest thing that can cause the most discomfort. The important thing is to seek medical advice, follow the process and be patient. It must have been difficult over the Christmas break. Shall I now book you in for a 5k? xx

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    1. Hi Sue - the closest to a 5k I'll ever get is watching someone else do it from the sidelines! I am amazed at how easily we can injure ourselves sometimes - especially when we manage to do other more strenuous activities without a twinge. It's certainly made me appreciate my ability to walk and added to the enjoyment of being able to walk a reasonable distance again!

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  5. Oh I bet your heart lurched when you heard/felt that pop! I've not had that happen (or anything similar) and hope it never does. I do get lots more aches and pains these days though and know we need to be a lot more careful with ourselves now we've moved into the older age bracket (sigh)! I'm pleased to know you're on the mend now Leanne! xo

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    1. Hi Min - yes I was just flabbergasted that I could injure myself so significantly doing something so insignificant! It's such a relief to be recovered and back to normal after those weeks of hobbling around like an old woman (it definitely reminded me that I'm not 20 anymore!)

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  6. Hi, Leanne - I am glad to hear that you have been steadily healing. I love your positve attitude and your sense of humour. To answer your final quesiton, like your friend, I can add a husband story. On the afternoon that we had fnished walking 700 kms of our 2017 Camino, I boasted to Richard that we had survived the whole thing without one injury. As soon as I sad that, Richard went to sit on a hammock, took a big spin, had a hard fall, and had cuts, bruises and a long lasting sprain. I seriously should not have tempted fate! I hope that your calf is back to 100% status soon!

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    1. Oh Donna that gave me a smile! It's always the unexpected things that catch us out isn't it? Taken out by a hammock will be added to my descriptors for Richard (along with the diving incident) You both lead very "colourful" lives!

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  7. Hi Leanne, I'm so glad you used first aid, and saw a Physio so quickly. Those two steps that so many people don't do, will speed up your recovery. I know all too well how healing slows down as we age. We don't bounce back as fast, that's for sure. I wish you well in your healing process.

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    1. Hi Christina - my little injury pales into insignificance to what you've been through over the last year or so, but it certainly reminded me that I need to take care of myself and not let a setback change the way I want to live my life. Healing may take more time these days, but we just need to be patient and allow it to take its course.

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  8. Good to read of your 'journey' Leanne and how well you are recovering, you'll be back to 'normal' very soon I'm sure. It is annoying and frustrating when we injure ourselves, especially when doing something so innocuous as picking up a box! I hurt my knee/leg last year and although it's better than it was thanks to physio and rest, it's not back to normal yet. I'm learning to live with it but the lack of regular sustained exercise is taking its toll on me, in various ways. I've pinned this post for others to read. Take care x

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    1. Hi Deb - I think that's the biggest annoyance, the ongoing limiting of what we take for granted before it happened. I never gave walking a second thought - or moving quickly etc. To have that taken away after a split second movement shows how easily it can happen and how important it is to try to get on top of it. I hope you get there too - and in the meantime you have that lovely electric bike to keep you active.

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  9. So glad you are doing, feeling better and your leg is on the mends. How horrible to have gone through everything you had to deal with concerning this injury.

    An elderly neighbor once, when I was in my mid 20's back in the 1986-ish era....waddled/walked across the street to where I was standing in my yard and stated to me..."It hurts like he** getting older, always keep your sense of humor!" I had not a clue as to what she was referring to or about at the time, however, I kept what she expressed to me in my treasure trove of quotes, as I dearly loved the lady!.......Fast forward to now, on this date...and have to say....I so know what she meant...every word of it!
    One thing which keeps me in mental check is being grateful for all of the modern medicine etc. which we have as women now, in which our Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers never had or would have imagined back in their day of their horrible aches and pains.
    All this to say...again glad you've shared from your injury you are on the mends. Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful posts!
    Don't let this injury discourage you from taking more vacations!
    Take care! :)

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    1. Hi Amy - it's funny how we think we're still 20 in our heads, but our bodies sometimes take it upon themselves to tell us otherwise! It certainly reminded me how much I value being pain free (relatively pain free!) and having the ability to come and go when I feel like it. Being incapacitated for several weeks is not as much fun as I thought it would be - and would have driven me crazy if it had been a long term issue.

      I think your friend was right - and I see it in my MIL and mum as they age, that "walk" that isn't as smooth as it was, and the tiring out more etc - we really need to appreciate what we have for as long as possible and keep as healthy and mobile as possible to delay the inevitable for as long as we can!

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  10. Glad to hear you're on the mend, Leanne. It must have been a challenging December and am glad you can write about it with your usual sense of humour now. I haven't had an injury of this type yet (knock on wood) although I'm mindful that it can happen any time and usually when least expected. You did the right thing by applying first aid and getting medical care asap.

    P.S. At another blogger's request, I'm extending my Weekend coffee share link-up end time to midnight Sunday Toronto time. Hope this also works with your posting schedule if you consider joining. I hope to see you at the next link-up.

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    1. Hi Natalie - yes, these things happen at weird times and I'm much more mindful of the potential for injury now! I'm also grateful for the fairly quick recovery and that I'm back to walking again.

      I also just subscribed to your blog so I'll get a reminder about the weekend party that I seem to forget for some reason!

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    2. Thank you, Leanne, for linking up with my Weekend Coffee Share party and for your subscription to my blog. The party usually starts leisurely on Friday morning then the pace picks up until closing time. Have a great weekend!

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  11. Oh, Leanne! So sorry to hear about your calf muscle strain. Why is it so hard to rest??? At least your pink compression sock is cute. I had a hamstring injury a few years ago that hurt when I sat for long periods of time. It helped to put a lacrosse ball under my bum. During a long flight to Europe, I kept putting the ball under my bum and taking it out again. The rest of the people on the plane probably thought I was crazy!

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    1. I would have laughed watching you do the ball trick on the plane Laurie! These injuries seem to take a fair amount of rest and rehab to get back on top of - maybe because leg muscles are large and do a lot of work? Sitting around is one of my favourite activities but being told to do it all day, every day for a few weeks was nowhere near as much fun as I'd thought it would be!

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  12. You know you have my sympathy. Mine is still a tad tender, but I am back to my previous mileage - badly though I put on a few kilos after it happened - a sign that I was relying on exercise rather than diet, I suppose.

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    1. Hi Jo - I was thinking I was pretty much on top of things, but went for a bit longer walk today and noticed the tenderness was still lurking. You do a LOT of walking, so I guess you'll notice it more with the added distance. And yes, those calories like to gather together for a celebration as soon as we sit down for too long!

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  13. Sorry to hear about the long period of recovery that was necessary. Sounds spooky to think of a muscle popping. About a year ago I had what I now laughingly call an encounter with the road. As I set out on my usual morning walk I suddenly fell and there was no way to avoid the direct hit of my head and one arm. I had tripped over a thin wire which had tangled with both my feet. As I struggled to sit up I had no idea what had happened.Thank heavens a couple of taxi drivers saw it happen and came to my rescue. Luckily I had no serious injuries but a very black eye, forhead lump and bruise, one big cut on my arm and many small scratches on hands which all took several weeks to heal. It was frightening though to think how quickly one could be damaged perhaps more severely. The best part was realizing how very lucky I was and how grateful I was for the kindness of others.

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    1. Falling like that is so frightening Judith - we laugh about "having a fall" but it really is a shocker when we hit the ground. We just don't bounce like we used to. How lovely that people stopped to help - there is still a lot of goodness in the world that is overlooked with the noise from the ugly.

      I'm grateful that I'm slowly getting back to normal and I'm so glad you recovered well too - when we think about how things could have been worse, it makes us appreciate the recovery capacity of our bodies (despite our age!) x

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  14. Glad to know that you are recovering, Leanne.
    I once injured my back while on parallel beam in the gym as a part of my physical training. It took a while for it to heal. Ever since that I have realised that the back is vulnerable to injury. So, I take extreme care while sitting, bending or taking something heavy.
    Take care.

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    1. Hi Pradeep - I thought I was doing the right lifting motion by bending at the knees - obviously I saved my back but sacrificed my calf muscle! I think age might be coming into play for me more these days....

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  15. Well done on your recovery...and having a great physio. I know how it is to have a calf muscle needing physio to help me walk again after breaking my leg, having pins inserted into the bones, and wearing a cast for 6 weeks. I had NO idea how much my calf would hurt being "massaged" back to work because I naively thought, broken leg fixed, I can walk. Nope and still in a wheelchair to have physio because my arms and wrists have too many problems to be able to use crutches. I actually smacked my physio's hand when it hurt so much. Luckily he knew me well, smiled and kept pummelling! I am like you re ED in hospitals too. Thank you for linking up this week for #lifethisweek. Great to see you and your blog here! Next week it's about #sharingoursnaps and that's an optional prompt. Join in each week for a friendly connection in a great community on-line. I am very grateful to you all. Denyse.

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    1. Hi Denyse - I didn't realize you'd had a broken leg and yes, muscles deteriorate very quickly. My physio guy was very insistent on my trying to keep my heel down so the muscle didn't shorten and need to go through the process of stretching it back to length again. It never ceases to amaze me how well our bodies work, but also how incapacitated we are when even one small thing goes wrong!

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  16. I'm so glad to hear that you are on the mend, Leanne, and that you were still able to enjoy your Christmas activities. That must have been a little scary, hearing that pop. My husband threw his back out once just turning to talk to me. He was in pain for a solid week from that one. Take care of yourself. I bet you are appreciating the ability to get outside and walk even more now after having been down for a bit. Enjoy!

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    1. Hi Christie - I'm LOVING being fully mobile again. I'm amazed at all the different weird injury events that people have experienced and how easy it is to do something quite major to yourself from a very small movement. I hate to think that age has also played into it, but I think it may have been the case and I'll be watching myself for future events and being just a little bit more careful!

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  17. Good grief, woman! I can only imagine the terror of hearing a pop coming from anywhere on my body. Holy smokes. I appreciate and can relate to your optimism that the injury would heal with a little RICE therapy. Two years ago, I broke my foot putting on my pjs. Hard work that is! Didn't realize it was broken and continued on it for two weeks. Finally after a painful 4 mile walk I decided to have it checked. Yup, broken. Hope you are soon back to 110%. Sounds like you have good professionals tending to your recovery.

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    1. Hi Leslie - now that's a crazy story for an injury occurrence! I'll make sure I'm careful putting on my pjs from now on too. I thought I was being so clever taking myself for a hobbling walk instead of just resting up on that first day - live and learn and I'll be following instructions very carefully in the future if another "incident" happens to my slowly ageing body!

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  18. Leanne, wow your story sounds so familiar to mine! It was my right calf - back in 2005. We had just purchased a new home and we were walking in the backyard discussing where to put raised garden beds the next spring. I stepped down and my foot went into a mole hole and POP. The almost instant pain was not something I was expecting, either! I did the R.I.C.E. treatment. By the time I got to the doctor (saving money and was in between insurance), it had healed enough that the pain had reduced. However, it does cause me grief often. I'm always afraid I'll re-injure it. I've bookmarked this post so that if it does happen (or someone else I know gets injured like this), I have a great post to share. ~Adrienne from Gluten Free Preppers and a member of the Blogger's Pit Stop Crew

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    1. Hi Adrienne - it gave me such a fright when it happened. And it also messes with my head because I didn't over-do something to cause it - just a simple lift and twist. Now when I feel twinges in that calf I start worrying too - and I've been wearing my calf "sleeve" on longer walks to try to not strain it - or get caught half way around the block with a re-injury and not able to walk home! I'm glad you found the post helpful and I wrote it as a reminder to myself for down the track too.

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  19. Ouch! That made my calves hurt, just thinking about it! I am so glad you are on the mend!

    Luckily I haven't had any injuries like that. But I wrote about my legs this week too, since Monday is my five year "yoga-versary!" It might just be a leg week. ;-)

    Bethany
    http://happilyloco.wordpress.com

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    1. Hi Bethany - I'd never experienced anything like it before either (which is why I had to Google it!) Such a strange sensation to actually hear a noise when something fails in your body - and one I hope I don't repeat in the future!

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  20. Hi Leanne,
    I recognized myself in your post. A few years ago, I was getting ready to head on stage with my violin to perform at the local Christmas carols. However, there was a dip in the grass near where it joined the asphalt, and my ankle flipped over like it often does but this time I felt a crack. However, I had somewhere to be and I'm not good at rearranging things and so I was helped up onto the stage and you can see blood running down my leg in the photos. The next day my kids were performing in the school talent show and I didn't want to miss that, especially as my shy daughter was singing Let It Go and I didn't think I'd get an opportunity to hear that again. I was in so much pain and could barely walk but I did it. I went from there to get an xray and it turned out I'd broken my 5th metatarsal and I was going to be in a boot for Christmas. Worse still, I'd be explaining what happened to my foot for the next few months, which was kind of ironic too, because I have a serious medical condition which is mostly invisible and no one asked about that.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

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    1. Hi Rowena - isn't it weird how such a small thing can have such a big impact? And when it runs into a major holiday it's even more of an issue. Knowing I had all the family for Christmas and wouldn't be walking too well was a bit of a concern - but (like you) I managed to keep myself in motion and got through it all. Fortunately I was healed enough by then that I just had to remember to be careful - it's amazing how we can keep going when it involves commitments and the family isn't it?

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  21. Ouch!!!!!!
    I don't recall too many muscle stories. Although I did tear tendons and muscle and all sorts of stuff in my ankle landing badly on cement playing netball as a 15 year old. The pain! Instant and unrelenting. That ankle is still weak and can swell a little even today.
    And yes, that goodness for Professor Googs!!!!

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    1. I think the pain surprised me Leanne - it was such a small action that caused such a big "ouch" and the recovery time also surprised me - I thought I'd be up and around in a few days - silly me!

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