Calf Strains: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

In this video, Airrosti’s Brooke Green, DC, examines some of the causes and symptoms associated with calf strains. She’ll also cover common treatment options for calf injuries and detail how Airrosti’s approach is a little bit different.

WHAT IS A CALF STRAIN?

The calf consists of three muscles: the gastrocnemius, the soleus, and the plantaris. These muscles are utilized with any movements involving the knee and ankle joints. A calf strain or tear is an acute injury that occurs when any of these muscles are overstretched or torn.

Hiker woman with trekking sticks climbs steep on mountain trail, focus on boot

WHAT CAUSES CALF STRAINS?

Many people experience calf strains during activities that involve explosive leg movements like running, jumping, or pivoting. A calf strain is often caused by overextending the leg or by suddenly changing direction.

Other risk factors include:

  • Overtraining
  • Weak calf muscles
  • Improper footwear

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A CALF STRAIN?

Calf strains can cause sharp pain and weakness in the back of the lower leg. Many calf strain injuries also produce the following symptoms:

  • Sudden pain during exercise
  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness in the back of the lower leg
  • Muscle spasms in the affected leg
  • Sharp or throbbing pain when stretching the calf muscle
woman holding lower leg with calf pain

GRADE 1 CALF STRAIN

The muscle fibers have been stretched and irritated but are not torn. This grade of strain is often referred to as a “pulled muscle.” A pulled calf muscle is considered a mild strain, with no significant loss of strength or mobility.

GRADE 2 CALF STRAIN

The muscle fibers may have partially torn. As a more moderate strain, these symptoms may include bruising, swelling, pain in the lower back of the leg, and difficulty walking.

GRADE 3 CALF STRAIN

The calf muscles in a grade 3 strain may be completely ruptured. This is a more severe injury that can result in severe pain, swelling, and loss of motion. Putting weight on the injured leg may be difficult or impossible.

RECOVERY TIME FOR CALF STRAINS

Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the strain. It can take anywhere from a few weeks for a Grade 1: Mild strain to several months for Grade 3: Severe strains that may require extensive treatment.

Foam Roller Massage after a Home Workout: a Man in Sportswear Relaxing his Muscles after Exercising in the Living Room

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR CALF STRAINS

Traditional treatment focuses on rest and pain management. Initially, your physician may give you crutches or a walking boot, along with anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce pain and swelling.

Physical therapy may also be required to regain full strength and mobility in the injured calf. Surgery is rarely necessary in the case of a calf strain, but it may be recommended if a calf muscle is completely torn.

AIRROSTI CALF STRAIN TREATMENT AND PAIN RELIEF

Interval training

At Airrosti, we treat strain injuries directly at the source to help you get you back on your feet fast. By incorporating at-home active rehab into your treatment plan, we equip you with the knowledge and skills to help speed up the recovery process and address aches and pains as they appear.

If you have been suffering from pain due to a calf pull or strain, contact Airrosti today to set up an appointment with a provider near you. We offer both in-office and virtual visits to best suit your needs.

Reviewed by Casey Crisp, Doctor of Chiropractic

Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you experience any numbness, tingling or reproduction of your symptoms, please contact your doctor.

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