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Calf Strain

What Is A Calf Strain?

A calf strain is an injury that 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.

Causes

  • Sudden large force or pressure to the calf
  • Overuse injury common in running and jumping activities
  • Excessive acceleration from stationary and lunging
  • Insufficient warm up exercise

Symptoms

  • 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

Treatment

  • RICE method
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Heel pads
  • Physiotherapy

Can I Run With A Calf Strain?

It is best to wait until you have recovered before running with a calf strain to avoid further damage to your leg.

How Long Does It Take To Heal a Strained Calf Muscle?

6 Weeks. The length of recovery will depend on the severity of your injury, but the average time to heal a strained muscle is around 6 weeks. A minor strain may only take a few days, while a more serious injury could take a few months.

How Do You Treat A Strained Calf Muscle?

RICE Method, Anti-Inflammatory Medication and / or Physiotherapy. Treatment for a strained calf muscle is dependent on how severe your injury is. Your doctor will be able to advise the best course of action.

Can You Walk With A Torn Calf Muscle?

Yes. You can still walk with a torn calf muscle but it may be painful. It is advised that you rest your leg before putting too much pressure on your injury.

Swollen Calf Muscle

A swollen calf muscle can be the result of a calf injury. Patients who suffer calf strain are likely to feel pain in the back of the lower leg which gradually becomes more apparent through continued activity. This is due to the muscle becoming inflamed and swollen and in more severe cases, muscle spasms can occur. When the injury is caused by sudden pressure or force to the tendon, pain will usually come on suddenly at the point of injury.

Torn Calf Muscle

A torn calf muscle is also known as a calf sprain. It is often confused with an achilles tendon rupture. A torn calf muscle is experienced through swelling or bruising if the tear is severe. Treatment for a torn calf muscle involves using the RICE method and protecting the muscle to avoid further injury.

Further Info

The most common cause of calf strain is through overuse, particularly in patients who partake in running and jumping sports. This is also common in sports such as football, tennis and squash due to the rapid acceleration from a stationary position seen in these sports.

Although this injury is typically seen as a result of overuse, calf strain can also occur suddenly if the muscle becomes over stretched for example when warm-up exercises have been missed out or are inadequate for the level of activity, causing the patient to over stretch the muscle whilst performing running, kicking, jumping or skipping movements.

Patients are likely to feel aching and stiffness which becomes more apparent first thing in the morning and often the calf will feel weak, making the patient unable to resume activity and sometimes bear weight resulting in a limp.

The severity of a calf strain is typically graded into three categories:

  • 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.

The majority of calf strains tend to be grade 2.

In order to diagnose calf strain, a doctor or physiotherapist will give an examination of the area. Often a doctor will carry out and Ultrasound or MRI scan in order to confirm the diagnosis and also to rule out any further complications.

In order to treat a calf strain, rest is crucial in order to allow the injury time to heal and to prevent any further activity which could cause damage or discomfort to the injury. Applying ice to the injury is an important aspect of healing as it will reduce any swelling and inflammation as well as providing cooling pain relief to the injury. Using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is beneficial for the first 72 hours of the injury occurring as it will reduce swelling to the area and by keeping the injury elevated blood flow is restricted which can prevent further inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory medications can also be taken in order to reduce swelling as well as relieving pain or aching feelings from the injury.

Heel pads are recommended for patients with calf strain as they can help stabilise and support the area whilst relieving pressure.

Kinesiology tape can be used to promote healing through lymphatic drainage, increasing blood flow to the area and easing pain.

When the injury has begun healing and patients are advised by a physiotherapist or doctor, it is important for individuals to undergo a rehabilitation program such as strengthening and stretching exercises which will keep the area strong and make it easier to return to sports once the injury has fully recovered. These exercises should not be carried out if the patient feels pain in the area and the advice of a physiotherapist should always be sought in order to obtain an exercise regime suitable for the individual.

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