Calf pain – Have I actually injured the calf itself?

By Allister Horncastle

A question I am frequently asked is: “I have a sore calf, have I strained it?”

The best way to answer this is to ask yourself:

1. Was there was an event that caused immediate calf pain?

2. Or did it build up slowly?

The answers to these questions will almost always dictate whether you have an acute calf injury or something else.

I have recently seen an increase in patients presenting for an assessment of calf pain.

The majority are returning to regular exercise – and particularly running type activities – after a layoff. The two most common presentations are:

1. Acute onset pain when jogging/running, or explosive type movements.

2. General soreness that appears during or after activity.

The main reasons for both presentations are generally unaccustomed loading and weakness.

Here are some self-management strategies for both pain types:

Acute pain:

  • Follow POLICE rules (Protection/Optimal Loading/Ice/Compression/Elevation).
  • Avoid HARM (Heat/Alcohol/Running/Massage).
  • Avoid Anti-inflammatory drugs (Nurofen/Voltaren).
  • Listen to your body: if you are limping, your body is being protective of the painful area. Know that limping is ok for a short period of time.
  • Finally, get an appointment with your physio to guide management.

Slow onset pain:

  • A rest period of 24 hours between aggravating activity may help.
  • Use heat through the muscle.
  • Massage and stretching may help.
  • If it is ongoing for longer than 24 hours, it is probably not just muscle ‘soreness’ and therefore, it needs to be assessed by a physio.

This is not by any means an exhaustive list of calf pain causes, but is a quick and simple guide to help you decide what needs to be done. 

If you have calf pain and are unsure about management, contact your local Physio Pro clinic for an appointment.

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