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Causes of Calf Pain and Treatment Options

Causes of Calf Pain and Treatment Options

Everything you want to know approximately calf ache

Your calf, placed within the again of the leg, just beneath your knee, is made up of three muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris). While harm to any of these might also produce calf pain, conditions that affect the blood vessels, nerves, or tissues that envelop your calf muscle groups may additionally achieve this as nicely. There is a selection of feasible diagnoses, from muscle pressure or rupture to a blood clot, and your medical doctor will want to recognize the specifics of your soreness—just like the quality (e.G., sharp, cramping) and depth (e.G., mild as opposed to the extreme)—to begin getting to the bottom of why you’ve got calf ache.

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In the end, your treatment plan will rely upon your underlying diagnosis, however addressing calf pain frequently involves treatment options like relaxation, ice, and anti-inflammatory medicinal drug.

Calf Pain


While most reasons for calf pain are quick-lived and benign, specially muscle-associated diagnoses, there are a few potentially severe ones, like a blood clot or claudication (while arteries in your legs are blocked). This is why it’s constantly vital to see your health practitioner for an assessment of your calf ache.

Muscle-Related Causes

Here is an overview of calf ache diagnoses that can be muscular in beginning, ranging from a calf muscle pressure (while the muscle is overstretched or torn) to a muscle cramp or bruise.

Calf Muscle Cramp

A calf muscle spasm or cramp—additionally known as a “charley horse”—refers to an involuntary contraction of one or greater calf muscles. Muscle cramps in the calf are often mentioned as intensely painful and can be associated with stiffness and a visible knot. Although this uncontrollable tightening of the muscle is commonly brief-lived, calf muscle soreness might also persist for days.

Calf Muscle Strain

Calf muscle pressure, and more particularly medial gastrocnemius stress, is the most not unusual motive of acute onset calf pain. Usually, this damage happens during sports or exercises interest while pushing off unexpectedly at some stage in a dash or bounce. The ache of calf stress is regularly defined as an unexpected sharp or tearing sensation. If extreme, swelling and bruising may additionally arise.

A medial head calf muscle strain is every so often known as “tennis leg,” because it typically occurs when tennis gamers fast trade instructions to go back a shot.

Calf Muscle Contusion

A calf muscle contusion or bruise frequently occurs after an instantaneous blow to the calf or a series of repetitive blows to the lower leg. In addition to the swelling, bruising (torn blood vessels), and severe, sharp ache, a hematoma (a collection of blood) may additionally shape.

Soleus Muscle Strain

The soleus muscle is located under the gastrocnemius muscle in the calf. Straining of the soleus muscle is generally continual damage that occurs in long-distance runners. The pain is often said as a deep pain or tightness inside the calf that can be reproduced while bending the knee and dorsiflexing the ankle (pulling your ft returned closer to your shin) at the equal time.

Plantaris Muscle Rupture

The plantaris muscle is a thin muscle that runs alongside the gastrocnemius muscle however is most effective a fragment of the scale. When the plantaris muscle tears (ruptures), regularly as a result of lunging forward, an unexpected, snapping ache within the returned of the leg is felt. Swelling and bruising in the returned of the leg may additionally occur, in conjunction with cramping of the calf muscle.

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Non-Calf-Muscle Related Causes

While muscle injuries are the most common purpose of calf pain, there are others that can stem from nerve issues, knee joint troubles, or foot and ankle conditions.

Achilles Tendonitis/Rupture

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon inside the frame, and it connects the calf muscle groups on your heel bone. When the tendon will become indignant, normally because of overuse, a burning ache may also expand within the again of the leg, normally simply above the heel. Calf ache and stiffness will also be a gift.

If the Achilles tendon tears (“ruptures”), someone generally experiences extreme, surprising ache within the returned of the leg, alongside issue bearing any weight at the affected leg. In addition, some people document hearing a “pop” whilst the tendon ruptures.

Blood Clot

Blood clots can shape in the deep veins of the leg (referred to as a deep vein thrombosis) and motive the traditional signs of swelling, redness, warmth, and a gentle, cramping pain within the calf.

Certain situations increase a person’s risk of developing a blood clot inclusive of:

  • Increasing age
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Immobilization
  • Cancer
  • Smoking
  • Undergoing a current surgery

A blood clot is a very serious motive of calf pain because, with out treatment, the clot can travel to the lungs (known as a pulmonary embolism) and cause problem respiratory.

Baker’s Cyst

A Baker’s cyst isn’t always a real cyst but rather a collection of knee-joint fluid that pools inside the again of the knee, most commonly due to arthritis. If a Baker’s cyst ruptures, the fluid may additionally leak down into the calf location causing an aching pain within the calf, at the side of swelling.

Nerve Entrapment

An enlarged or swollen calf can region pressure on nerves, inflicting symptoms like numbness, tingling, and/or sharp ache. The nerve entrapments that most typically motive calf ache are sural nerve and peroneal nerve entrapment. Rarely, an intense peroneal nerve entrapment ends in muscle weak spot and foot drop.

Popliteal Tendonitis

The popliteal tendon wraps across the knee joint, connecting the thighbone to the popliteal muscle—a triangular-fashioned muscle that works with the tendon to control forward movement and rotation of the knee. The ache of popliteal tendonitis is felt above the calf, inside the lower back and aspect of the knee, and worsens whilst taking walks or walking downhill. In addition to pain, if the damage to the popliteal tendon is acute, bleeding into the knee joint can also arise.

Rarely, the popliteal tendon tears, however, this could occur with trauma, such as with an instantaneous blow to the interior of the knee.

Popliteal Artery Entrapment

Popliteal artery entrapment—a rare circumstance visible by and large in younger male athletes—is assumed to stem from a developmental disorder wherein someone’s gastrocnemius muscle compresses the popliteal artery (located within the knee and returned of the legs) whilst the knee is flexed.

The signs and symptoms of popliteal artery entrapment encompass a deep ache within the calf that happens after a lively decrease in leg exercise, which includes biking or running.

Lower-Leg Peripheral Arterial Disease and Claudication

Claudication from lower-leg peripheral artery ailment—while there may be reduced blood drift inside the arteries of the lower legs—causes ache in the buttock, hip, thigh, calf, and/or foot upon walking a positive distance. The ache resolves with rest within 10 minutes.

Claudication pain inside the calf is usually defined as cramping and effects from the narrowing of the artery within the mid-thigh (superficial femoral) or the knee (popliteal artery).

Fracture of Lower Leg Bone

Bone damage or fracture in one of the decrease leg bones (the tibia or fibula) might also purpose calf ache, frequently mentioned as constant. Leg deformity and swelling may also be a gift.

Bone Infection

Rarely, bone contamination in the decrease leg may additionally purpose calf ache, commonly defined as stupid and constant. In addition to ache, warmth, redness, and swelling can be a gift.

When to See a Doctor

If you are uncertain of the purpose of your signs and symptoms, or if you do now not understand the unique remedy pointers in your circumstance, you must are be seeking clinical interest. Treatment of calf ache should be directed at the specific motive of your problem.

Some symptoms that you should be seen with the aid of a medical doctor include:

  • Inability to walk comfortably on the affected aspect
  • Injury that reasons deformity of the lower leg
  • Calf ache that happens at night time or whilst resting
  • Calf ache that persists beyond a few days
  • Swelling of the calf or ankle joint location
  • Signs of an infection, along with fever, redness, warmth
  • Any other unusual signs and symptoms


In many cases, the diagnosis of calf ache is made clinically, that means with in-depth clinical records and bodily exam on my own. However, on occasion imaging tests, like an ultrasound, or blood tests, like a D-dimer, are wished.

Medical History

Prior to your medical doctor’s go-to, it is a good idea to write a couple of notes about your calf ache, which includes while it commenced, what it appears like, and whether or not you’ve got experienced any other signs and symptoms like numbness or swelling. In addition to inquiring about the specifics of your calf pain, your doctor will need to realize whether or not you’ve got any health problems and if you experienced a recent injury or trauma.

Physical Examination

During the bodily exam, your medical doctor will inspect and press on (palpate) your lower leg with a purpose to search for signs of swelling, tenderness, warm temperature, and discoloration or redness. He may additionally test your reflexes and leg/ankle/foot pulses.

Lastly, he’ll maneuver your foot, ankle, and knee, potentially performing specialized checks if a sure analysis is suspected.

Two examples of special exams once in a while used to assess calf pain include:

  • Thompson test: The Thompson takes a look at accesses for Achilles tendon rupture and involves a health practitioner squeezing the calf muscle while the man or woman lays flat on an examination desk together with his or her foot putting over the brink. The check is effective (suspicious for an Achilles tendon rupture) if the feet do now not flex downward whilst the calf is squeezed.
  • Garrick check: The Garrick check may be useful for comparing popliteal tendonitis. In this check, someone lies flat on their return on an examination table with the knees and hips flexed to ninety tiers. The take a look at is fantastic if rotating the knee (your physician will do that) causes pain at the website of the popliteal tendon.

Blood Tests

In maximum times, blood checks aren’t warranted for diagnosing calf ache. That said, a D-dimer can be ordered to aid in the prognosis of a blood clot. The inflammatory markers, erythrocyte sedimentation fee (ESR) and c-reactive protein (CRP), may be useful in making the prognosis of a bone infection.


Sometimes whilst diagnosing calf pain, docs utilize numerous imaging exams. For example, an ultrasound may be used to evaluate calf tendon accidents, tears, or, more significantly, a blood clot. If your health practitioner suspects a fracture of the lower leg, ankle, or knee, an X-ray may be ordered.

Less commonly, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test is ordered, most usually to get right of entry to a couple of muscles within the calf immediately, to prognosis a nerve entrapment, or to diagnose popliteal or Achilles tendon injuries.

If your physician is involved in popliteal artery entrapment, a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is needed to verify the diagnosis. An ankle-brachial index (avascular examination) is used to diagnose claudication from peripheral artery sickness.


Treatment of calf ache depends absolutely on the reason for the trouble. Therefore, it’s miles of utmost significance which you understand the cause of your signs earlier than embarking on a remedy program. There are, however, a few common treatments that might be in all likelihood to be cautioned.


The first treatment, in most instances, is to rest the muscle mass and allow the extreme irritation to subside. Often this is the best step had to relieve calf pain. If the signs are intense, a strolling boot and crutches can be useful.

Ice and Heat Application

Ice packs and warm pads are a few of the maximum commonly used treatments for muscle or tendon-associated sources of calf ache. Depending on your situation, one can be higher to use than the alternative. For example, inside the case of calf traces, it is best to use ice 4 times every day (for 15- to twenty-minute classes) until the swelling subsides.

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