Calf Muscle Pain

HealthHearty Staff Oct 4, 2018
A surprisingly large number of people experience pain in the calf muscles, which is mostly caused due to exertion. This write-up has inputs on the causes and treatment of calf muscle pain.
The calf muscles are located in the posterior side of the lower leg, and comprise two muscles. The protuberant part is made up of the gastrocnemius muscle. This, along with the soleus muscle make up the calf.
The calf muscles are the ones that enable basic movements like walking, running, and jumping. No wonder then, that they undergo considerable strain, especially among people who are active on their feet. Calf muscle strain is also a common grouse among sportsmen.
Calf muscle pain is generally experienced for a short time and is curable. More often than not, it is a direct consequence of excessive exercise or use of incorrect workout methods, especially those related to stretching.

Symptoms of Calf Muscle Injury

The symptoms of muscle pain mostly depend upon the extent of the wear and tear of muscle fibers. Depending upon the extent of injury to the muscle fibers, they are listed here:
  • A sudden and intense sensation of pain while getting up from a seated position or walking is the foremost symptom of strained calf muscles.
  • One may experience acute stiffness in the calf during simple leg movements.
  • The calf region may seem hard due to the tightening of the muscle.
  • Muscle tear in the calves can severely restrict lower leg movements.

Causative Factors

Muscle Strain

The most common factor that causes pain in the calves is a strained gastrocnemius muscle. This typically happens when the said muscle undergoes trauma, or is overworked. When the muscle stretches beyond its normal limit, it exerts a lot of pressure on the muscle fibers, at times causing them to tear.
Overexertion, which eventually leads to muscle fatigue is yet another cause of calf pain. When you overuse a muscle, it is eventually deprived of oxygen and other nutrients, which causes the muscle to wear out.

Sports Injury

Sports injuries are a prime cause of calf pain. Sporting activities like basketball, running, long jump, rugby, soccer, etc., which demand stretching, may increase the chances of calf muscle injury. Sometimes, an abrupt acceleration, or a sudden change of direction while running can also lead to contraction of calf muscles.

Cramps

The exact cause behind leg cramps is not known. However, excessive stress and a drop in blood supply to the leg muscles are suspected reasons. Leg cramps are common during pregnancy. Other factors causing leg cramps include dehydration, side effects of certain medicines, liver disease, infection, etc.

Mineral Deficiency

Lack of vital minerals such as calcium and magnesium may also lead to pain in calf muscles. If your muscle pain is accompanied by dehydration, you are most likely to be suffering from a mineral deficiency.

Can Lactic Acid Buildup be a Cause?

Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid buildup does not cause muscle pain in the body. Lactic acid is produced in the body to compensate the depleted energy levels during intensive exercises. This process causes a burning sensation, and makes the body feel like it's cramped up.
However, the lactic acid gets flushed out within an hour, whereas muscle soreness takes over about 24-30 hours later. Doctors derive the probability that excess exertion causes the muscles to become sore in this case, not the presence of lactic acid.

Treatment

Treatment of calf muscle pain depends upon the severity of the calf muscle injury. The treatment may include some of the following steps depending upon the nature of the injury or strain.
► It is necessary to rest your legs and keep them elevated for a day or two. This can be continued until the pain and tenderness in the muscles disappears. During this time, avoid any strenuous exercise or exertion of the leg muscles.

► Apply an ice pack to the affected area 3 to 4 times a day, for a duration of 10 minutes every time.
► Consult your doctor about using an elastic compression bandage, which may bring relief.

► If your leg is swollen, you may keep it at an elevated position in order to reduce the swelling.

► If the swelling persists and/or you still have tenderness in calf along with pain, then your doctor may prescribe pain relief medication.
► Light stretching can be performed only after your doctor's permission.

► 
In case of an intense trauma to the calf muscles, your leg may be put in a cast to restrict mobility and speed up the healing. In some cases, surgery may be required.
Pain in the calf muscles can be debilitating, but simple home remedies can help you get rid of it. In case the pain persists, do consult your doctor at the earliest to rule out any complications.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.