Calf Pain

Calf pain is a common occurrence in sports that include running, jumping, hopping and landing activities. Your calf muscle group essentially consists of two muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) that attach to your Achilles tendon.

Calf injuries can occur to both muscle and tendon structures. They are commonly caused by excessive forces during explosive contraction, eccentric control loading or when your calf muscles fatigue.

How do I know if I have strained my calf muscle?

Pain that occurs in the calf muscle on the lower part of the leg often is the result of a pulled or torn calf muscle.

You may think you’ve just been hit in the leg and potentially hear a “pop.” There is sudden pain at the back of the calf. Then you’ll experience pain, swelling or bruising in the calf muscle, and you’ll have difficulty walking properly or standing on your toes.

Calf injuries usually occur during acceleration or changes in direction. However, we have known people to tear their calf by simply running across the road!

How do you treat a calf muscle injury?

Calf strains heal best when treatment has begun as soon as practical following injury. If you have strained your calf playing sport, you must immediately stop the sport and avoid any movement which produces the pain.

As soon as possible, and for 72 hours after injury, use the RICE method:

  • Rest - Take it easy and only move within your limit of pain.
  • Ice - As soon as possible, and for 20 minutes every two hours, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a damp towel. This helps to control bleeding and pain and reduces secondary tissue damage.
  • Compression - Firmly bandage the injury. This helps to control swelling.
  • Elevation - As much as possible, elevate your injury higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Initial management may require the use of crutches or a walking stick to reduce the load on the injured tissues. As the injury begins healing your Leading Edge physiotherapist will advise a graduated return to exercise without an increase in symptoms.

Depending on which part of the calf is injured there will be stretches, strengthening, proprioceptive and mobility exercises to return full function and reduce the chance of the injury recurring.

Your physiotherapy treatment may include elements such as:

  • Ultrasound and other electrotherapy
  • Stretches
  • Soft tissue treatment
  • Dry Needling
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Exercises to regain strength, movement
Before your return to sport, your Leading Edge physiotherapist may also need to look into:
  • Correction of biomechanical anomalies
  • Technique modification
  • Advice from our world-class podiatrist for the provision of orthotics and footwear advice
  • Providing a return to sport plan

In the event of a severe injury where physiotherapy is not initially appropriate, the patient will be referred directly to our network of sports doctors or orthopaedic surgeons for further investigation and treatment.

I've injured my calf, what do I do right now?

If you have just strained your calf, then the first thing to do is the follow the RICE and No HARM principles to prevent further damage to the injured muscle.

Your next step is to have your calf pain assessed by a Leading Edge Physiotherapist. Contact us or book online today.