A calf strain is an injury to the calf muscle. A strain is another word for a tear. Calf strains are very common. They are most common in people who play sport. Rehabilitation exercises are needed to repair a calf strain to full capacity.
There are various ways a calf injury can occur. In a healthy muscle the most common causes of a calf strain are sudden pushing off movements, sudden deceleration or over-stretching the calf muscles. Jumping and running type activities are common causes of a calf strain.
Symptoms of a calf strain can vary depending on the grade of the injury. Though, they often involve sharp pain in the back of the lower leg, tenderness, bruising and swelling. Most people describe the feeling as been ‘flicked’ or ‘kicked’ in the back of the leg. The sudden development of a painful limp and inability to stand on the toes is common. The three most common symtpoms are pain, weakness and loss of function of the ankle.
Calf muscles tears have three grades with different symptoms that require different treatment.
- Grade one – minor: This is a minor tear with few muscle fibres injured.
- Grade two – moderate:This is a moderate tear with more extensive damage to muscle fibres.
- Grade three – major: This is a major or complete tear of the muscle fibres. Grade 3 strains are the more severe muscle strains.
Treatment options for a muscle strain 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 initially and then heat as advised by your treating practitioner.
- Exercises as part of calf strain rehabilitation program to strengthen the calf muscle
- A sports chiropractor or physiotherapist will direct your rehabilitation. It is important that you complete your rehabilitation to ensure the full function of your calf muscle returns.
- There are many calf strain reduction programs. If you have had one calf strain you are more likely to have another. By completing exercises (prehab) even when you don’t have an injury, you may reduce your risk of another calf strain.