The calf is one of the most frequently injured body parts, especially if you are a particularly active person. As well as the three major muscles, the soleus, the medial gastrocnemius, and the lateral gastrocnemius, the calf also contains the smaller plantaris muscles, the tibia, the fibula, and a number of tendons and ligaments. Calf pain can arise from any one of these areas, so in this blog, we will look at some of the most common causes of calf pain, and how to treat them.
Muscle strains are the most common form of calf muscle pain, usually occurring in the medial gastrocnemius. People who plays sports are the most likely to suffer a muscle strain, which can be an acute injury that happens suddenly, or an overuse injury, that occurs gradually over time as the muscle is used too often without being given sufficient rest. The pain felt in a strain comes from the tearing of the muscle fibers, so giving these fibres an opportunity to repair themselves is the most effective way to treat the condition. The best method for this is to use the R.I.C.E. technique, which means Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. To learn more about this technique and how to apply it, visit this blog.
Plantaris Muscle Rupture
A less common, and somewhat less significant, source of calf pain is a rupture of the plantaris muscle. As it usually just mimics the movements of the gastrocnemius muscles, and is not even present in up to 20% of people, the plantaris muscle is generally considered unimportant. But it can rupture, and if this occurs, it cause sudden pain, swelling, and possibly bruising. Most plantaris muscles ruptures will simply be treated with the R.I.C.E. technique, and will generally recover within 8 weeks. In rare cases where there is extreme pain, surgery may be required, but this is very unlikely.
The Achilles Tendon is one of the most used tendons in the human body, as well as one of the most frequently injured, and can cause calf pain in two different ways. The first is through Achilles Tendonitis, where pain can radiate up the leg due to the inflammation of the tendon itself. Once again, the R.I.C.E. technique is the most effective way to approach this. The second way the Achilles Tendon can cause calf pain is through a rupture. Usually, a rupture of the Achilles Tendon will cause pain in the heel, but as it is one of the longest and thickest tendons in the body, this pain can sometimes occur further up the leg.
How to treat a rupture of the Achilles Tendon depends heavily on the wishes of the individual. Since the tendon is so crucial for our ability to run and jump, many younger people and athletes will opt for the surgical method to quickly and effectively restore function, as full recovery can take up to a year depending on the severity of the injury. But for older or less active people who are only really interested in walking, non-surgical methods such as the R.I.C.E. technique, stretching, and medication, can be sufficiently effective.
A Baker’s Cyst is a common problem that arises when excess fluid from the knee joint pools into a soft, visible bulge at the back of the knee. Although it is not an uncommon condition, and is easily treated, it is important to have Baker’s Cysts evaluated by a professional, as they can lead to other, more serious health issues.
While more extreme cysts may require surgical intervention, most Baker’s Cysts can be treated in a non-invasive manner, such as by draining the fluid in question, injecting the area with cortisone to reduce local inflammation, or with the R.I.C.E. technique.
These are just a few of the most common causes of calf pain, but from blood clots to varicose veins, there are lots of different reasons you could be experiencing pain in this region. If you can easily identify the root of your pain e.g. it comes on suddenly during a match, the R.I.C.E. technique will probably suffice. If you are unsure of the cause of your pain, see if this technique yields any benefit, and if not, have yourself checked out by a professional so that the underlying cause can be identified as soon as possible.