What is it?
It’s that feeling of discomfort in the fleshy tissue on the back side of the lower leg, from below the knee to above the ankle. Your calves are made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels, all of which are subject to injury, infection, or other conditions that can be painful.
Calf pain may last briefly, or be constant. It may affect your entire calf or only a localised area. Your pain may feel dull and achy, throbbing, piercing, or tingling. Pain-like sensations that are often described as pins-and-needles, prickling, or burning are called paresthesias. Calf pain may be simply irritating and uncomfortable, or so debilitating that you can’t put weight on your leg, or walk.
While muscle injuries tend to be one of the principal causes of calf pain, there are others such as circulation problems, knee joint problems, accidental trauma, muscle cramps, deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the leg), nerve and other conditions.
Details of the more popular causes listed are as follows:
- – Calf Muscle Strain– Is the most frequent cause of acute onset calf pain. Usually this injury occurs during a sport or exercise activity. General symptoms of a calf strain include pain, swelling, and bruising.
- – Blood Clots – Need to be considered as a cause of calf pain, especially when the pain is not the immediate result of an injury. Blood clots can form in the deep veins of the leg, causing a blockage in circulation. This may cause swelling and pain in the area. You are usually more vulnerable to them in the days and weeks after injuries and surgical procedures.
- – Cramps – Usually the symptoms are intermittent (not constant pain).
When should I see a Doctor/Podiatrist?
If you are unsure of the cause of your symptoms, or do not know the specific treatment recommendations for your condition, you should seek medical attention. Some signs that you should be seen by a doctor or a podiatrist include:
- – Inability to walk comfortably on the affected side
- – Injury that causes deformity of the lower leg
- – Calf pain that occurs at night or while resting
- – Calf pain that persists beyond a few days
- – Swelling of the calf or ankle joint area
- – Signs of an infection, including fever, redness, warmth
- – Any other unusual symptoms.
It depends entirely on the cause or severity of your problem. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you understand the cause of your symptoms before embarking on a treatment programme.
Some regular treatments for calf pain are listed here. Not all of these treatments are appropriate for every condition, but they may be helpful in your situation.
- – Rest: The first treatment for most common conditions is to rest the muscles, and allow the acute inflammation to subside. Often this is the only step needed to relieve the pain. If the symptoms are severe, crutches may be helpful as well.
- – Ice and Heat Application: Ice packs and heat pads are among the normally used treatments.
- – Stretching: Stretching the muscles and tendons of the calf can help with some causes. A good routine should be established, and following some specific suggestions will help you on your way.
- -Physical Therapy: This is an important aspect of treatment of almost all orthopaedic conditions. Physical therapists use different techniques to increase strength, regain mobility, and help return patients to their pre-injury level of activity.
- -Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, are generally prescribed medications, especially for patients with pain caused by acute inflammation.
- – Electric and Massage Therapy: These therapies have proven to be helpful in some cases.
If you, or someone you know are experiencing calf or leg pain after mild exercise or exertion, or if you are experiencing pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the calf, seek professional care if it persists.