Saturday 1st October, 2022

The easy way to release trigger points in your calf muscles

Calf muscle trigger point therapy with a ball
There is a much easier, safer, more effective way of releasing a trigger point yourself

If you have calf muscle trigger points they can cause cramping, pain when walking or running, and difficulty walking up steps. It’s great to be able to treat these yourself, but the way you usually get shown is painful, hard to do, and if you’ve had any experience with those techniques before you’ll know that the problem practically always come back again. In this article we’ll show you a much simpler way to treat or release your calf muscle trigger points that’s pain free and highly effective.

The way we’ll do this is:

  1. show you the technique,
  2. show how to apply it to your calf muscles, then
  3. give you some hints and advice to help you get the best possible results.

Trigger point therapy vs trigger point release

Trigger point therapy and trigger point release are practically the same thing so the terms get used interchangeably

"Myofascial" trigger points

The official name for these trigger points is myofascial trigger points.

Your best self trigger point therapy

By far the simplest self trigger point therapy is the use of a vibration massager. As shown in the diagram below, this is where the head of a vibration massager is placed over the trigger point allowing the vibrations to penetrate deeply, having a host of highly beneficial effects that basically “dissolve” the trigger points. There are huge advantages in using the vibrations to penetrate rather than the typical way of pressing in with your thumb, a ball or a roller.

Vibration trigger point therapy
Vibrations are scientifically proven to do all the main things needed to treat a trigger point

Highly effective

As discussed in our article What is the best trigger point therapy the vibrations are scientifically proven to do all the main things needed to treat a trigger point,

Better penetration

The vibrations are able to easily penetrate deeply to even the deep, hard to get at trigger points.

No pain and little risk

Because you are not physically pressing in there’s also usually no pain, no risk of causing damage, and no risk of pressing on something sensitive like a nerve or a blood vessel.

Extremely easy

Best of all you don’t need any special skills to do vibration massage. You just sit the machine on and let it do the work. You don’t even need to find the spot exactly. As long as it’s somewhere under the head of the machine the vibrations will find it for you.

Using vibration trigger point therapy on your calf muscles

In this section we'll show you:

  • The muscles you will be treating
  • How to find the trigger points
  • How to Apply the therapy to your calf muscle trigger points

Alternatively you can watch our video below

The main calf muscles and their trigger points

The muscles you will be treating

These are anatomical pics of the muscles we’ll be massaging. The x’s shows the common sites of trigger points, while the red shows where they refer pain to. If you have them that pain will often come on when you’re walking or running. You can also get calf cramps, or have difficulty or discomfort walking up hill or up steps.

Finding the trigger points

The charts tell us where you are likely to find your trigger points, but it is very easy to examine and check.

Examining calf muscle for trigger points
Start with your flat fingers looking for general tenderness and tightness

Start with a general examination

Start by using the flats of your fingers using moderate pressure to examine your calf muscles looking for areas of general tenderness or tightness. Work systematically to cover all of the muscles.

Deeper examination

When you find an area of tightness or tenderness use the tips of one or two fingers to examine your muscle more deeply looking for tight bands of muscle with a tender lump that shoots pain when you press on it. Those tender lumps will be the trigger points, and the pain caused when pressing on them will likely match the pain shown in the pics above.

Applying vibration trigger point therapy to calf muscle
Basically all you do is hold the vibration massager over the trigger point for about 30 seconds and let the machine do the work

Applying the therapy

We have a few simple hints and precautions in our Vibration massage usage guide , but basically once you’ve found the spot all you do then is sit the head of the machine on for about 30 seconds and let the vibrations penetrate, then when you’ve finished check to see if it maybe needs a bit more. All we do is systematically examine the muscles, and apply the therapy to everything we find.

  • You will notice that we work through a single layer of clothing. This prevents skin irritation.
  • Also, there is no need to press in or move the machine around like you would do with conventional massager. This would actually be counter productive.
Applying the quad head massager to calf muscles
Applying the quad head massager to calf muscles

The even easier way to treat your calf muscle trigger points

We have an even simpler way to treat the trigger points in your calf muscles. This pic shows our quad head massager, which has four powerful vibration heads that cover a much larger area. All you need to do is sit the massager over the top part of your calf muscles for about a minute, then repeat for the bottom half. This will “soak” every mm of your calf muscles with therapeutic vibrations.

Our video demonstration

some hints and advice to help you get the best possible results

So, that’s the simple way of treating release trigger points in your calf. I think you’ll agree that it’s a lot easier and nicer than using painful pressure or getting into some awkward position with a ball or roller. What I’d like to do now is quickly go over a few things help you stay safe and get the best possible results. Keep in mind though that I can only give specific advice to my own patients, so consider this as general information only.

Get some professional advice

One important thing with trigger points is that they are often part of a more complex problem, and there are often things you can do to help other than trigger point therapy. You’ll do most of the work yourself, but I recommend you do get some professional advice, plus it’s always good to make sure that it actually is trigger points and it’s safe to do trigger point therapy. In the case of calf muscles that’s especially important because if you have blood clots in your veins they can dislodge and end up in your lungs killing you.

Do you want great long term results, or just temporary relief?

The next thing we’ll go over is whether you want great long term results, or just a bit of temporary relief. I mentioned before that if you use a pressure technique the problem will almost always come back. It’s the same if you get needles or laser. The main issue is that trigger point therapies and releases initially just quieten the trigger points down a bit so they’re not hurting, which means they’re still there and eventually start hurting again. To get rid of trigger points completely scientific trials show that after the pain goes you need to keep treating them, maybe even be 50 or 100 times. We discuss this in detail in our artice Why do trigger points keep coming back

Trigger point dry needling
After the pain goes will you make another 50-100 appointments for needling to get rid of the trigger points completely?

If you’re using a professional with needles or lasers, once the pain has gone I doubt you’re going to make another 50 or 100 more appointments. I also strongly doubt you’ll be very excited about another 50-100 sessions of self inflicted pressure techniques either. The practicality is that there’s virtually no chance that needles, lasers or pressure techniques will ever get rid of your problem.

That’s the biggest advantage of using a vibration massager. Once the pain has gone you can easily keep doing it every day every day till the trigger points are gone, then maybe then once once a week or once a month to stop them coming back.

Avoid percussion massagers (massage guns) and their techniques

The next thing you need to do is to avoid percussion massagers or massage guns, and the techniques their advocates show you. I’ll share with you why. What percussion massagers or massage gun makers have done is modify vibration massagers to make a marketing gimmick that’s a lot less effective and a lot more dangerous. The easiest way to explain it is to use the analogy of a construction compactor vs a jackhammer.

Percussion vs vibration massage

The problem with the equipment

Vibration massagers are like these construction compactors. They send large amounts of vibrations deep into the ground while barely scratching the surface. Percussion massager marketers have modified their machines to drive their heads into the muscle, claiming that it penetrates better and adds the benefits of conventional massage. What they’ve really done is turn their machines into jackhammers.

Reduced effectiveness and reduced penetration

Remember it’s the vibrations that do the work. Jack hammers don’t vibrate the ground anywhere near as much as a compactor so percussion massagers are far less effective. The percussion marketers claim that driving their heads in like jackhammers gives better penetration, but if you look at those two machines the jackhammer head goes in a bit, while the vibrations from the compactor are probably still doing their work a meter or two down.

Dangerous massage gun
Massage guns are designed to "jackhammer" muscles rather than deliver therapeutic vibrations

I hope you can already see the biggest problem with percussion massagers. You can sit a vibration massager on yourself and it’s usually very safe. On the other hand if you have your percussion massager driving it’s head into the muscle it can do all sorts of damage, or worse still hit something like a nerve or a blood vessel.

The "percussion massage" technique

So that’s the machines themselves. I also said the percussion massage technique. Vibration massagers are power tools, and just like most power tools they work best if you just let them do their job. You just sit the machine on and let the vibrations penetrate. If you try and move it around like a convention massage you’re not letting the vibrations soak in, so it will be a lot less effective. However, the marketing gimmick of percussion massagers is that they combine conventional massage with vibrations so that’s exactly what they tell you to do.

Percussion massagers are very poor at delivering therapeutic vibrations anyway so it probably doesn’t matter with them, but I don’t want to see you following their recommendations with a decent vibration massager.

How to get a decent massager

So, how do you find a decent massager. This article discusses what to look for, but they’re not that common though. Most of the massagers on the market are either ineffective consumer consumers, massage guns or both. That’s why a while back to get something decent for our patients we built our own, which are the two machines I’ve used here and in the video.

The General Purpose Massager

This is our General Purpose Massager. We’ve had them for over a decade and they’re widely used and recommended by professionals across a number of countries. They’re very solid and reliable. The business end delivers strong therapeutic vibrations, and they have an ergonomically designed handle so you can easily use it anywhere on your body.

The Ultimate Quad Head Massager

The General Purpose Massagers do a fantastic job, but as you’ve seen they’re limited to what’s under the head, which is why we built our quad head massager.


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.

We are continually adding more information on research and uses. Subscribe below to have us email them to you "hot off the press".

Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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