The calf muscles reside at the back of the leg, stretching out between the knee and the Achilles tendon. A sore calf is experienced when there is any abnormal feeling felt in this region. It can be a piercing pain, a dull ache, a constant throb, or a strange tingling sensation. Pain or discomfort can occur in consequence from an injury, trauma, excessive walking, exercise, or even just from sitting on it for an extended period of time.
What causes sore calf muscles?
The causes of sore calf muscles can be split into two main groups: injury or medical related. Injury related causes encompass any trauma to the calf muscles. Medical causes include a wide range of conditions that either cause sore muscles or involve it as a symptom.
- A calf muscle strain is a common injury that causes soreness. This occurs when the calf muscles are overstretched and the muscles become torn. This results in swelling, acute pain, and bruising. This pain will be aggravated when walking, stretching, or standing on your tiptoes.
- Muscle cramps are involuntary muscle spasms that can be quite painful. These cramps are not necessarily an injury, but can result from exercise or the overuse of the calf muscle.
- Achilles Tendinitis is the inflammation and irritation of the achilles tendon. The tendon becomes irritated either through overuse or as a result of arthritis. This condition will cause pain in the calf, and the pain will be intensified through exercise or walking. Additionally, the skin over the tendon may feel warm to the touch.
- Baker cysts form when there is a build-up of joint fluid behind the knee. The only symptoms of this condition are pain and stiffness in the leg.
- Deep venous thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot in the deep veins in the body. If they form in the leg it can cause calf pain. DVT's can cause pain, change in skin colour, swelling, and warm skin.
What other symptoms might occur with sore calf muscles?
Pain is not the sole symptom associated with a sore calf. The other physical changes that may occur along with sore calf muscles include:
- A fever
- The calf may feel like its burning. It may feel warm to the touch.
- Joint pain, especially in the leg joints.
- Muscle spasms in the leg. These may occur at night, and interfere with your sleep.
- Numbness. This will most likely be felt in the calf.
- Decreased mobility
- Skin discoloration
- Weight loss
There are certain factors that can contribute to the likelihood of a person developing sore calf muscles. These relate to a person's habits, health, and lifestyle.
- Sport and exercise: If you regularly participate in sports then you are more at risk of developing sore calf muscles. High risk sports include hurdles, soccer, football, basketball, and long jump. These sports exert a lot of stress and pressure on the calf muscles, which can cause an injury.
- Cold weather: In the winter, air pressure is lower, which can cause the tissue surrounding the joints to expand. This expansion puts pressure on the joints that can cause muscle pain.
- Tight calf muscles: This is when the calf muscles are tighter than usual. It can be caused by overuse, not stretching probably, or from a medical condition. If your calf muscles are tight then they are more prone to injury and soreness.
Home remedies and prevention for sore calf muscles
Several remedies can be performed at home to relieve sore calf muscles. There are also preventive methods that you can try.
There are a few approaches that should be attempted within 24 hours of experiencing calf pain.
24 hours: These home remedies can be remembered with the word RICE.
- Rest: as soon as you experience calf pain, you should rest the affected area. Try to limit walking and movement within the first 24 hours to avoid causing further damage.
- Ice: Place an ice pack or another cold device (peas, cold meat) to the calf muscles for 15-20 minutes following the injury or the onset of pain. This should be repeated every few hours for the first 24 hours. Ice can effectively reduce swelling and bruising.
- Compression: Wrap a compression bandage around the calf to prevent further swelling and reduce pain. This bandage should not be wrapped too tightly or too loosely.
- Elevation: Rest the ankle so that it is slightly elevated, it should rest above the heart. It should be kept in this position for 24 hours to reduce swelling.
Post-24 hours: This treatment involves re-strengthening your calf muscles to get them back to a healthy state.
- Stretching: When the pain has subsided to a certain degree, start to stretch your calf muscles daily. The stretch should not cause pain, and should be repeated 6 times 3-5 times a day.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help you strengthen and heal your calf muscles through various beneficial exercises.
- Take it easy: Following an injury or calf pain, you should not overwork your muscles, as this can cause more damage. Try to take things slowly and gradually work yourself up to where you were before you experienced calf pain.
Preventive methods: There are a few things you can do regularly to prevent sore calf muscles from occurring.
- Ensure that you stretch your calf muscles thoroughly before exercising.
- Do not overexert yourself. Be aware of your limits and stay within them. Overexertion is a common cause of calf muscle pain.
- Educate yourself on the proper techniques for exercise, sports, and running. This knowledge will help you prevent injury and muscle stress.
To conclude, we will leave you with two invaluable tips to help you prevent calf muscle pain. Remember to stretch your calves. 5-10 minutes of stretching before exercising can help prevent calf pain. You must also stay hydrated. If you are dehydrated, it can make your muscles more prone to strains and injury. It is important that you drink plenty of water while exercising.