Muscle tears recover, but slowly
Linda Calabresi is a GP and editor of MedicalObserver. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org I ama 62-year-old tennis player who does some limited jogging and golf. Recently I jumped off a swimming dock and tore my calf muscle. According to my doctor, no surgery is required or recommended. What can I do to speed up my recovery and get back on court? THE symptoms you describe are most likely the result of a tear in the one of the two heads of the main calf muscle — the gastrocnemius. This is also known as a ‘‘ torn monkey muscle’’ injury, for reasons I don’t quite understand. It is caused by overstretching of that particular muscle. While it is not serious, it can be debilitating in the short term. To help with recovery you need to (in the first 48 hours) adhere initially to the RICE therapy — rest, ice, compression and elevation. Wearing an elastic compression stocking can help reduce the swelling associated with the injury. While some people might need crutches for a few days, most people with a torn calf muscle are advised to start gentle exercise, such as walking, within 48 hours of the injury and to increase activity as much as the pain will allow. Using a heel pad to raise the heel will help reduce the pressure on the calf muscle. Gentle stretching exercises will also facilitate recovery, and these are often best directed by a physiotherapist. It is advisable not to return to full active sport until the pain has completely gone, although wearing a heel raise can shorten the duration of this restriction. I ama 43-year-old woman and have been diagnosed with three gallstones. My doctor advises that I need to have the gall bladder removed. I would like to know if the gallstones themselves can be removed, as an alternative to removing the whole gall bladder? Can diet stop stones recurring? GALLSTONES are very common, occurring in 10-20 per cent of the population. Generally speaking they should only be removed if they are causing a problem. If this is the case, there are some alternatives to removing the entire gall bladder. These include targeting the stone with shock waves and destroying it, although there is then the problem of stone fragments which have to be either passed or dissolved. This procedure is not recommended for people with large or multiple gallstones. There are also drugs available to dissolve gallstones, but these have limited effectiveness. Basically the gall bladder is considered an unnecessary organ — its role being to simply concentrate the bile which is manufactured in the liver. It is this concentrating effect which contributes to the gallstone development, so if you have symptomatic gallstones it is recommended you have the entire gallbladder removed. On balance, you will not miss it and its removal will ensure further gallstones do not develop. A low-fat diet will help reduce the risk of the stones causing symptoms, and it will help prevent new stones, but it will not cause the stones to disappear. Is my breast-fed baby safe if I have a few drinks? WHILE alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, its absorption into breast milk is far less. Research into the effect of this alcohol on the breast-fed baby is lacking. The reality is that we just don’t know. However, what is known is that high doses of alcohol can produce symptoms of ‘‘ drunkenness’’ in infants. Also, chronic alcohol intake can affect motor development in infants, but how much alcohol is needed to cause this is yet be determined. In general, it is thought that the occasional drink by the mother is unlikely to cause any problem to a breast-fed child, but more than this amount is best avoided.