What is a Calf strain?

A calf strain is a tear in either the gastrocnemius muscle or the soleus muscle which together make up the calf muscle group at the back of the lower leg. Here we explain what a calf strain is, as well as some of which are more serious causes of calf pain which should not be missed.

The calf muscles

What causes a Calf strain?

It is pretty easy to strain the calf by overloading it, usually associated with sudden, high-speed or high demand activities such as squash or tennis. Or from gradual onset fatigue such as the end of a long run. The discomfort can be immediate or present as tightness that develops over several hours.

What are the symptoms?

  • Sudden sharp pain is felt, usually in the middle of the calf muscle area at the point where the gastrocnemius muscle connects to the Achilles tendon.
  • The muscle will often be tender to touch at the point of injury.
  • Swelling and bruising may appear depending on the type and severity of your injury.

Other causes of calf pain

It is important to rule out other causes of calf pain which if missed could cause serious harm.

  • Achilles injuries – if the pain is more localised to the Achilles tendon, just above the heel bone, or you cannot perform a heel raise despite the discomfort, then you need to get an assessment from a qualified medical professional to exclude any serious injury to the Achilles tendon itself.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – is a blood clot in the calf muscle area. Again, seek professional medical advice as soon as possible if you suspect a DVT.
  • Other causes of calf pain include Cramp, Contusions, Compartment syndromes, and fractures.