A calf strain is an injury which occurs when the muscle at the back of the lower leg becomes damaged or inflamed due to excessive strain or force being placed on the calf muscle.
The most common cause of a calf strain is through overuse of the muscle, particularly in sports which involve a high amount of running and jumping. As well as this, sports which require rapid acceleration from a stationary position will be susceptible to calf strains.
Although a calf strain is most commonly cause by overuse, it can still occur when the muscle is overstretched, usually if the warm-up exercises prior to the activity were not adequate for the activity.
A calf strain can be caused by several factors:
– A sudden large force or pressure applied to the calf
– Overuse of calf muscle in sports which contain running and jumping
– Excessive acceleration from stationary or lunging
– insufficient warm-up exercises
Those affected are likely to feel aching and stiffness which will be more apparent the next morning. The calf will also begin to feel weak and will usually mean the patient will be unable to resume any activity.
The severity of a calf strain is usually graded into three grades:
- Grade 1- A small tear of a few fibres occurs, and the patient suffers a minor twinge of pain in the lower leg which may not necessarily prevent them from continued activity.
- Grade 2- A more substantial tear occurs involving more fibres and the patient feels a sharp pain in the lower leg as well as swelling and bruising.
- Grade 3 – All muscle fibres tear resulting in a complete rupture of the muscle and the patient experiences intense pain, substantial swelling and bruising and a possible abnormal appearance of the calf.
– Sudden pain in the calf muscle
– Pain when resuming activity
– Inability to bear weight on the injury
– Swelling and inflammation
– Aching and stiffness
– Abnormal appearance of the calf
To begin to treat a calf strain be sure to rest the injury and avoid any activity which could cause further damage to the muscle, be sure to follow the entire RICE (rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method within the first 72 hours after the injury occurs.
Heel pads are recommended for those who have suffered with a calf strain as they can help stabilise and support the area whilst relieving pressure.
As well as heel pads, Kinesiology Tape can be used to increase recovery time through lymphatic drainage, increasing blood flow to the area and reducing pain.
The average time for a calf strain to heal is around six weeks, but your recovery time will depend on the severity of injury you sustained. As a minor injury may take several days, whereas a serious injury could take months.
– RICE method
– Anti-inflammatory medication
– Heel pads