Some of you may have experienced that slight tightness that rises in your calf as you head out on a run or hit the gym. Even more of you may recognize that the pain doesn’t get any better as you continue your workout; it only gets worse. That tightness you feel could be a calf strain, or it could be a pulled calf muscle.
How do you strain your calf?
Situated in the lower back of the leg, the calf is comprised of three muscles, known as the triceps surae. Attached to the Achilles tendon, these muscles help to extend the foot, as well as bend the leg at the knee joint. When these muscles are torn or pulled, a calf strain takes place, causing small micro tears to form in the muscle fibres.
Did you know, there are three different types of calf strains?
Grade 1: Mild strain
Symptoms include slight swelling, muscle tightness and pain or discomfort after a workout or run. With a mild strain, the pain is immediate, and the muscles can be tender to touch.
Grade 2: Moderate to severe pain
There will be a sharp pain in the lower back of the leg, making it hurt to walk. Bruising, as well as a swelling, in the calf muscle can occur.
Grade 3: Rupture
With a grade 3 strain, the muscle hurts to touch, and where the tear occurred a lump of muscle tissue can be felt.
Stains happen when the muscles become overstretched, a result of overuse or sudden, abrupt movements. If a warmup or cool down is not done properly before a workout, a muscle strain can occur. For runners, running up hills or a sudden change in direction can cause the calf to strain.
Those who have a calf strain can experience a wide variety of symptoms from a sudden, sharp pain in the lower leg to inflammation and tightness, and an ache in the mid-calf.
How do I treat and prevent a calf strain?
When it comes to recovery, rest to prevent any further damage to the calf muscle. Apply ice for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours. Compression is also a great way to restrict movement, as well as reduce swelling. To help prevent a full-on calf injury, make sure that you warm up or cool down before working out for around 10-20 minutes.
This article was adapted from Vivomed and Runners Connect. Read the full articles here and here.
If you have any questions about calf injuries, please contact Campbell Clinic to meet with a physician.