There are various ways a calf injury can occur, including sudden pushing off movement, over-stretching the calf muscles and jumping activities.
Symptoms of a calf strain can vary depending on the injury. Though, they often involve sharp pain in the back of the lower leg, tenderness, bruising and swelling. For athletes, they will often not be able to train or exercises due to tightness and pain.
Calf muscles tears have three grades with different symptoms that require different treatment.
- Grade one: A minor tear affecting 25% of the muscle fibres. Tightness may be experienced in the lower leg. Often people continue to exercise with only mild discomfort and experience aching within 24 hours after exercising.
- Grade two: A more severe strain affecting 90% of the muscle fibres torn. Sharp and significant pain will be felt and some bruising, swelling and tightness. These symptoms may appear within hours or days after the strain.
- Grade three: Involves 90 – 100% of the muscles fibres torn. This grade is commonly referred to as a ‘rupture’ with severe pain in the back of the lower leg being felt. Bruising and swelling may also be visible with symptoms appearing within hours or days after the strain.
Treatment options include:
- Applying P.R.I.C.E (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation) to reduce pain and inflammation
- Apply a cold pack to the area every hour for 10 minutes then reduce this to 3 – 4 time a day as required
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Electrotherapy, such as an ultrasound which helps reduce swelling and pain
- Exercises and stretching as part of calf strain rehabilitation program to strengthen the calf muscle
- Sports massage on the calf muscles to help stimulate blood flow.