The calf is made up of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus, these muscles meet at the achilles tendon. Calf pain can be caused by a muscle strain or cramp that may be resolved with daily stretches, it could be related to other issues, such as achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
If you have strained the calf muscles, symptoms might include:
- Tightness in the calf
- Feeling of a pop, snap or tear at the time of injury
- Sudden pain in the calf
- Difficulty rising onto your toes
- Bruising to your calf
If you are experiencing calf pain then you can try resting, icing, compressing and elevating (RICE). If symptoms persist then contact a specialist who can assess and advise on a treatment plan.
Treatments may include:
Rest and Immobilisation
Symptoms often result from a tear to some of the muscle fibres and this often requires a period of rest and immobilisation, allowing the muscle to heal. The time required and type of immobilisation depends on the extent of the injury and this will be determined by ultrasound or MRI examination.
Physiotherapy and Stretching
Your specialist may provide you with physiotherapy exercises to stretch the calf muscles, these can relax your calf muscles and in turn reduce the strain it can have to your musculoskeletal system, which might otherwise cause adverse secondary effects such as knee pain and back pain.
Following a gait analysis, your specialist may advise on custom orthotics. A heel raise can for example reduce the tension to your calf muscles by reducing the distance they need to stretch.
Steroid and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections
If pain persists in your foot / ankle then your specialist may advise on either a steroid or PRP injection.
Typically the choice of substance for a steroid injection will be Cortisone, the steroid can reduce swelling and pain in your foot / ankle. It acts like a hormone, which stops inflammation.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy uses your body’s own blood plasma with concentrated platelets. The platelets contain growth factors that repair and regenerate damaged tissue. By injecting your own platelets into the affected area the platelets will promote faster healing to the region.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Warning Signs
It is important to see a specialist if you experience these symptoms as the cause could instead be related to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), where a blood clot can form in a deep vein.
Symptoms related to DVT can include:
- Pain in your leg, typically starting in your calf
- Red or discolored skin on the affected leg
- A feeling of warmth in the affected leg
Call 999 immediately if you experience the following symptoms also, as this may be caused by a pulmonary embolism:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Rapid pulse
- Coughing up blood
If symptoms persist then your specialist may advise on surgery. Click here to find out more on common surgical treatments.