When it comes to calf pain, you have to understand that a variety of factors can lead to this type of condition. It's important not to think of calf pain as just a single condition because the reason why you experience it can be entirely different from the next person who has similar symptoms.
What Causes Calf Pain?
Calf pain is a common problem that can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Tight 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.
What are the symptoms of calf pain?
The symptoms of calf pain 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
The Best Calf Pain Treatments
There are several ways to treat calf pain, and if you want to learn more about it, keep reading our post!
Calf Pain Treatments
Simple treatments you can perform at home are a great way to help reduce the pain in your calves and start feeling better. It's very comforting to know there are ways to treat your calf pain in a non-intimidating place designed for people like you!
RICE for Soleus Muscles
A calf muscle injury caused by exercise should start to recover using the RICE acronym. This is used for any mild injuries, and it's recommended when someone suffers from a muscle tear.
One of the best ways to treat a muscle injury is by resting. Stressing the muscles, even when you aren't doing any exercise or activity, can do more harm than good and delay your return to full fitness. Although it's hard for athletes and busybodies, giving your body some time to heal without over-exerting yourself is imperative because while they get healed, they will be itching to get back into action faster, but this eagerness can often cause more damage than necessary.
Ice may not be the most exciting solution for treating muscle injuries, but it's been known to work wonders. The cold numbs pain and helps minimize swelling by constricting the blood vessels.
You can use a cold therapy pack or submerge your calf in a cold bath periodically throughout the day for an hour. This can keep you through the first couple days following an injury, where treatment is most effective. Never sleep with a cold pack, however, as it has been known to cause irreversible damage to your skin tissue!
SACKSY THYME Cold Therapy Pack for Calf Pain:The SACKSY THYME Cold Therapy Pack is a versatile product that can be used in a variety of ways. To use it for calf pain, simply place the pack on your calf muscles and apply pressure to the area. The pack will instantly soothe the sore muscles and offer a cooling effect that will help reduce inflammation.
The third letter in RICE stands for compression. To begin, grab an elastic bandage or a brace with Velcro straps to put on your lower leg. By doing so, you can reduce swelling and support the muscle simultaneously. Make sure that the compression is tight enough that you may see blood vessels through the material but not too tight to cause pain or seriously limit blood flow.
Calf pain can be reduced, in part, by resting the affected area. While you're off your feet and on the couch, grab two pillows and stack them under your leg. Elevation will reduce swelling that contributes to calf pain. You should readjust the pillows a few times throughout the day to ensure you achieve an elevation higher than your heart!
Calf Stretches and Exercises
Getting cramps in your calves is the worst. It's irritating to bear when you're desperate to run, walk, or stay awake. But as long as no significant pain or swelling issues accompany the cramping, it's important not to panic. If you want to alleviate calf pain without breaking the bank, try a simple stretching program that will maintain your range of motion and flexibility and strengthen your muscles over time. Hence, you never must suffer from this debilitating combo of feelings again!
Foam Rolling Tight Calves
A foam roller is a self-massage tool that applies pressure and releases deep into the muscles to relieve tension and alleviate soreness. If your calves are experiencing pain, you can use the foam roller to release any muscle knots or trigger points that could be causing your issues. It's important not to roll over broken skin or blood clots until you've healed enough for them not to become further irritated by the foam roller application.
When treating a calf injury at home, a couple of over-the-counter (OTC) medications are often recommended as they are effective and provide excellent relief. The first option available is commonly an anti-inflammatory medication (like Motrin or Advil), which reduces swelling and pain. When choosing your course of treatment, another common option is using pain relief creams that target soreness, stiffness, and discomfort without draining fluids from your body. However, it's important to note that It's always best to check in with a healthcare professional if you're taking new medications. To avoid any unintended negative side effects for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions, be kept in mind.
If you've suffered a calf injury, it's important to make some lifestyle changes that will help prevent another calf injury from occurring. Here is a list of other lifestyle changes for you to consider making:
- Stop smoking
- Give your body a proper warm-up and cool down with exercise
- Keep a healthy weight
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Stretch regularly
- Stay well hydrated to avoid muscle cramps
- Avoid over-exercising
Physical Therapy for Calf Muscle Strain
When your calf muscle strain is severe, you should seek a professional to help you through the process. If your calf pain started occurring and it's preventing you from being able to walk too well, if it lingers around for longer than a few days, or if it's causing redness, swelling, or deformation of any sort along your lower leg, then you need to get yourself checked out by a trusted medical professional immediately. Here are a few things that could cause this issue, but unfortunately, it won't be easy for you to treat on your own in time.
- Compartment syndrome
- Peripheral artery disease
- Nerve damage
- Deep vein thrombosis (also known as DVT, which can lead to a pulmonary embolism)
Physical therapists are very specialized in their approach to treating leg pain. A thorough physical examination evaluates your situation and determines a treatment plan. While in the therapist's office, you will be instructed on stretches and exercises proven effective to improve your range of motion and strengthen weakened or atrophied muscles. You will often be sent home with handouts illustrating these exercises so that you may continue improving at home for optimal results.
Nighttime Calf Pain Relief
Getting a good night's sleep can be difficult when you have calf pain at night. This type of pain often disrupts your sleep and makes your next day stressful. If this problem affects you, we highly recommend you focus on methods like elevating your legs with a pillow, stretching out to release the tension, or identifying over-the-counter medication solutions to treat your symptoms. No one approach will work best for everyone experiencing nighttime calf pain--but by experimenting with all three solutions we have mentioned today: exercise therapy, medications, and heat & cold therapy treatments, you will find which option works best for you.
Caring for Tight Calf Muscles
Calf pain treatment begins with identifying the source of the pain and addressing what's causing it. If you have a mild muscle injury, at-home remedies such as massaging and rest may help relieve swelling and discomfort. It's time to see your doctor if you have a severe injury. When in doubt, always visit a professional so they can determine the best treatment plan for your specific condition.