Calf pain describes any type of pain around the skin bone. The shin bone is located between the knee and ankle. The most common cause of calf pain is a calf muscle strain. Calf pain is common in sports participants and athletes. The sports chiropractors at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) see patients with a variety of difference problems that cause calf pain.
- Calf muscle contusion: A contusion (bruise) occurs from a direct blow that causes the muscle to bleed and swell.
- Calf strain: Calf strain is another word for calf muscle tear. There are three grades of calf strains with grade 3 representing a full or complete tear.
- Calf muscle cramp: This is a painful sudden, involuntary contraction of the calf muscle. This kind of cramp can be experienced at the end of a long and hard exercise session. Causes of the cramp are low salt and carbohydrate levels and dehydration.
- DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness): DOMS is muscle soreness that occurs in the hours after exercise.
Referred pain from the back can also cause calf pain that mimics a calf problem. Calf pain can be referred from the lower back through pressure on the sciatic nerve. Swelling at the back of the knee (Bakers cyst) can also refer pain into the calf.
Less common causes
- Compartment syndrome: This is where the muscles become too large for the sheath (covering) surrounding it. A direct blow or injury can cause this, making the muscle (or bone) bleed and swell. Compartment syndrome is a medical emergency.
- Stress fracture of the fibula: This is a hairline crack in the bone caused by overuse or repetitive stress. This fracture is less common that a stress fracture. Pain on the fibula bone is the most common symptom.
- Stress fracture of the tibia: This is a hairline fracture in the weight bearing tibia bone. This fracture is caused by overuse. Shin pain is likely to be experienced along the tibia bone.
- Varicose veins: can be the cause of calf pain.
The treatment for calf pain depends on the cause. Most common causes of calf pain such as a calf muscle strain can be treated by good sports chiropractic and physiotherapy. This will typically involve both hands on treatment such as massage, taping and dry needling in combination with exercises for rehabilitation.