Calf Muscle Strain
What is a Calf Muscle Strain?
A calf muscle strain occurs when the calf muscle in the leg is twisted, pulled, stretched, or torn.
Calf muscle strains can become chronic if not treated properly, leading to more and more strain and tearing of the muscle fibres until eventually the calf muscle is torn completely – similar to a rope giving out.
What Causes a Calf Muscle Strain?
Common causes and risk factors of calf muscle strains include:
- Previous calf muscle strain or injury
- Incorrect technique or training in sports including lack of strength training
- Direct trauma to the lower leg
- Overuse of the calf muscle
- Poor foot biomechanics
Calf muscle strains are typically seen in athletes, especially sports where quick bursts off your feet are required.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Calf Muscle Strain?
Initially, symptoms include sharp pain in the calf, especially when pushing off with the toes or going up on the toes, like when climbing stairs.
You may also experience:
- Pain when the calf muscle is stretched
- Weakness in the calf
- Tenderness when touched
- Minimal swelling
Strains can range from a grade 1 strain to a grade 3:
- Grade 1: the muscle is overstretched or torn slightly; though you may still be able to walk without pain, running, kicking or stretching might be painful
- Grade 2: the muscle fibres are partially torn, making movement painful
- Grade 3: the tear goes through most or all of the muscle or tendon, causing extreme pain, usually accompanied by swelling and bruising
Concerned about symptoms of a calf muscle strain? Find a physiotherapist near you and book an assessment today.
How is a Calf Muscle Strain Treated?
Since calf muscle strains have a high chance of re-occurring and usually only worsen with time, it’s essential to get treatment right away.
Treatment can include:
- Surgery – while surgery is rare, if it is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for a Calf Muscle Strain
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing mobility and function, and preventing recurrence.
At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.
Depending on the severity of your calf muscle strain and your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:
- Activity modifications
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Range of motion and flexibility exercises
- Balance and control exercises
- Personalized exercise plan that you can do at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
- Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
- Patient education including return to work or sport recommendations
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can a Calf Muscle Strain Go Away on Its Own?
While some mild strains can be treated at home following the RICE protocol, calf muscle strains typically become chronic, risking further muscle tears and an increased chance of compensatory walking patterns.
Thus, it is important to seek physiotherapy if you have suffered a calf muscle strain so you can heal and get back to leaping, lunging, or sliding, no matter what your sport is.
Total recovery time can last between four to six weeks depending on the severity of the injury and patient compliance with physiotherapist exercises.
Can You Prevent a Calf Muscle Strain?
The best way to prevent a calf muscle strain is to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises as part of an overall fitness plan.
If you play sports, speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.
Once you injure your calf muscle, the chances of recurrence are significantly higher, so it is important to practice prevention, especially if you play sports that require quick bursts off your feet, like hockey, soccer, football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, baseball, and track and field.
Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of straining your calf muscle include:
- Warming up and stretching before exercise
- Cooling down and stretching after exercise
- Practicing proper technique in sport including stretching and strengthening exercises
- Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for a Calf Muscle Strain Today
Concerned about symptoms of a calf muscle strain? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.