Calf pain when walking or running is common because the calf muscles play a large role in propelling the legs forward during these activities. Since walking is an essential daily activity, taking a break can often make it impossible because we feel as if we have to push through. However, continuing to push through will only make things worse and can cause unnecessary harm to your body. Read on for tips on how to treat and prevent further damage by getting started with calf pain treatment today!
Assessing Your Calf Injury
Before you start a treatment plan for your soleus muscle pain, make sure that you rule out any other issues. Understanding what's going on with your calf injury is important to ensure you have the right protocol.
Causes of Calf pain when walking or running
- Tight calf muscles: The calf muscles comprise two main muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These muscles can become tight due to overuse, poor posture, or sitting for long periods.
- Shin splints: Shin splints are a condition that causes pain in the front of the shinbone. They are often caused by overuse or by running on hard surfaces.
- Stress fracture: A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone. It can occur in the calf bone due to overuse or running on hard surfaces.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. It can occur in the calf vein and cause pain, swelling, and redness.
- Ankle sprain: An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that support the ankle. It can cause pain, swelling, and bruising.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome: Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the foot. It is caused by pressure on the tibial nerve, which passes through the tarsal tunnel in the ankle.
Where is the Pain?
When sustaining an injury, many different places inside the calf muscles can feel stiff or sore. The calf muscles run from the back of the knee to your ankle, where they attach to your Achilles tendon with a strong band of fascia called the plantar fascia. The large bulk of muscle you feel in the back of your lower leg is your gastrocnemius and its sister muscle, the soleus. Anywhere in this entire area, including superficial or deep into the soleus muscle or even along your Achilles tendon, could feel tender with use, especially after exercise days.
Symptoms of calf pain when walking or running
The symptoms of calf pain when walking or running can vary depending on the underlying cause. However, some common symptoms include:
- Pain in the calf muscle
- Swelling in the calf muscle
- Tenderness in the calf muscle
- Numbness or tingling in the foot
- Weakness in the calf muscle
- Difficulty walking or running
How Severe is the Pain?
The amount of pain and soreness you're experiencing can give you a clue as to what's happening. While calf pain can range from minimal to severe, if symptoms are severe, seek medical advice immediately, no matter the time of day. It could be more serious issues like a blood clot, infection, fracture, or major muscle tear. Additionally, while some night calf pain is normal in most cases, if it's completely affecting your sleep quality, talk to your doctor about ways to help prevent it.
Taking preventative measures to address lower leg pain, like aching calves, is important. Depending on the severity of your calf injury, you can use several home remedies or hot/cold tools that are simple and effective. Some people apply Cold therapy pack immediately, while others prefer a herbal heating pad. It's important to switch it up!
SACKSY THYME Heat and Cold Therapy Pack for Calf Pain:The SACKSY THYME Heat and Cold Therapy Pack is specially designed to accommodate the shape and size of the calf. The pack provides an even distribution of heat or cold therapy to the affected area, ensuring maximum relief. The pack can be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer, depending on the required therapy. The heat therapy helps to increase blood flow and promote healing, while the cold therapy reduces inflammation and swelling.
Practice Proper Running Technique
Common running mistakes include poor hip extension, overpronation of your foot, and excessive valgus at the knee. These things put the calf muscles at a biomechanical disadvantage that strains them with use. Quick tips include addressing hip extension with regular stretching and glute strengthening, foot overpronation with exercise and supportive shoes, and knee alignment with jump training and hip abductor strengthening.
Warm-Up with Stretches
A proper warm-up is usually important before exercise and running, especially if you feel stiff or tight. Some good stretches that address general lower-body flexibility combined with specific calf stretches will help you feel ready for a workout. To add to that, there's some low-intensity movement that promotes blood flow, and tissue extensibility can also do the trick! Consider using a foam roller on any tight or trouble areas before and after movement if you think it is the missing link in your exercise recovery routine!
Running barefoot may seem daunting, but it can also bring many benefits! Running barefoot has been shown to reduce stress in the joints and calf muscles while strengthening your feet and increasing your tolerance for running. It may take some getting used to, but your feet will adjust quickly, and you'll notice that it makes running more comfortable than ever. Talk to your physical therapist about whether or not you should start running barefoot, as it is up to you and that professional to devise a plan before you begin trying this out for yourself!
Preventing Calf Pain on Your Run or Walk
It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Preventing leg problems before they happen is the best way to guarantee that you’re not going to have anything holding you back when it comes time for more serious training.
One of the most overlooked aspects of lower body strength and endurance is coordination. A well-rounded approach to building calf strength requires coordinating all of the surrounding muscles in the feet, ankles, thighs, and hips - something few people think about when it comes to exercise. Working toward stability and healthy movement patterns with a balanced stretching routine will reduce injury risk throughout the legs and enhance your ability to build muscle for weight-lifting exercises like calf raises.
Tissue health is a common goal among orthopedic specialists. Many lifestyle factors promote good overall tissue health, including those that affect bone and joint structures – making healthy choices helps the body feel its best and prevents potential injury. Common examples of these include:
- Having a stress management routine
- Eating a nutrient-dense diet
- Getting enough high-quality sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
Take Time Off From Running
Often, taking a short rest when symptoms are mild can get you back on track quickly. If you start to feel they might become more severe in the long term, it's important to take action sooner rather than later so that you don't worry about losing too much training time behind symptoms.
Remember, though - that some things require more care and attention from a physical therapist than others. For example, if the limited range of motion is your only concern, then stretching for a bit isn't any harm. Still, if muscle weakness has begun along with balance complications, getting help from someone who knows how to handle these issues more effectively than you could on your own is important.
Here are some additional tips for preventing calf pain when walking or running:
- Wear supportive shoes: Shoes that provide good arch support can help to reduce stress on the calf muscles.
- Avoid running on hard surfaces: Running on hard surfaces can increase the risk of shin splints and stress fractures.
- Gradually increase your mileage: If you are new to running, start slowly and gradually increase your mileage each week.
- Listen to your body: If you feel pain, stop and rest. Do not push yourself too hard.
- Cross-train: Cross-training, such as swimming or biking, can help reduce calves' stress.
Keeping Your Calves Strong
Calf muscles must be strong and healthy to tolerate normal activities like standing, walking, and running. They are particularly used when you bend your knees or walk stairs. If you need help figuring out where to start or are noticing symptoms worsening with your daily activities, always consult a medical specialist for advice on what exercises can help strengthen your calf muscles so they can cope better with everyday pursuits. You should seek medical attention if the pain is persistent and has led to redness and swelling in the leg. This may be a sign that a strain has occurred, which could take much longer than usual to recover from and be more painful.