Did you know that you have more than one heart-like pump in your body? You do! Of course you have the regular heart located in the chest. It is a powerful pump that circulates the blood out to the body. That blood comes back to the heart through the veins; but sometimes it has a long way to travel back, or gravity is working against it. For example, when you are standing, how does the blood get back up to the heart from your feet? That is where your 2nd heart takes over. Your skeletal/muscular pump, or soleus muscle acts as the lower body’s powerful heart-like pump to push that blood back upwards to the real heart against gravity. It keeps the blood from pooling in your lower body, feet and toes. The soleus is one of the calf muscles and lies just deep to the gastrocnemius. The soleus’ other anatomical function is to plantar flex the foot, or increase the angle between the foot and the leg (as when you point your toes).
If the soleus is tight, it can’t flex or pump with as much force. This means that blood isn’t pushed as powerfully back upwards. Therefore, the heart has to do the job on its own and work harder to keep the blood circulating. This is why it is recommended to lie flat when you sleep or with your feet elevated higher than the heart. Then gravity can help the flow of blood get back up to the upper body. But that isn’t enough. You also need to make sure your soleus or 2nd heart is healthy and functioning optimally. A tight soleus muscle can lead to swelling, edema, high blood pressure, plantar fasciitis, varicosities, and can trigger low back pain.
So how can you make sure that you are easing the load on your heart, and efficiently circulating the blood around the body? Easy! By making sure that your soleus is not overly tight. You can do this in three ways: stretching, massage, and acupuncture.
Stretch your soleus to keep it supple and flexible. Keep that 2nd heart pumping blood back up to the heart as efficiently as possible. (see below)
Massage your soleus. Concentrate on the posteriolateral (back and outside) portion of your calf. Press deeply as the muscle lies deep to the gastrocnemius muscle i.e. underneath it.
Acupuncture can also release a tight soleus. Not only will it help the soleus, but acupuncture will also move the circulation and energy throughout the entire body. It also harmonize all the muscles, tendons and organs so that they can more optimally work together.
Ideally you alternate among all three therapies. It is easy to stretch a few times daily (I do it while I am standing in line), and once a week go for acupuncture or do self-massage.
Start with an easier stretch that will loosen up your soleus muscles. Stand facing a wall with both hands on it. Extend your left leg behind you with your toe pointing toward the wall. Your right foot should be closer to the wall with your toe pointing straight as well. Bend your back knee, and keep your back heel pressed into the ground. Lean into the wall, stretching your left soleus muscle. Repeat the stretch with your other leg.
Move on to a slightly deeper stretch. Still facing the wall, keep both hands on the wall for balance. Place the ball of your left foot against the wall with your heel on the ground. Keep your right foot slightly behind your left with the toe pointing toward the wall. Bend your left knee as you press your knee and upper body closer to the wall. To deepen this stretch, move your left heel closer to the wall so the ball of your left foot is higher on the wall. Repeat the stretch with your other leg.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soleus_muscle, Grey’s Anatomy, www.naturalbabypros.com