Suffering from calf pain?
Calf pain can be experienced as a mild discomfort or severe enough to affect walking. There are a variety of conditions that can affect the calf muscles, as well as the blood vessels and other structures around it. Fortunately, many of the causes of calf pain are easily treated and prevented.
Causes of calf pain
1. Muscle cramp
Calf muscle cramps are usually temporary but can cause significant pain and discomfort. Causes of calf cramps
Dehydration / reduced electrolytes through sweating
Poor blood flow
2. Muscle strain A calf muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers in the calf tear either partially or completely. The symptoms will vary depending on the level of strain, but most people will experience sudden, sharp pain and tenderness at the calf muscle site, accompanied by a limp. 3. Reducd blow flow A person may experience calf pain due to narrowing or blockages in the arteries that supply blood flow to the legs. This is known as ‘arterial claudication’. This may cause pain while walking, as this movement requires blood to flow for muscle energy / activation.
4. Nerve impingement / compression Sometimes the nerves that go to the legs are pinched, affecting their ability to supply the lower leg. This can happen via a peripheral nerve entrapment (sciatic nerve) or a condition called spinal stenosis. This condition occurs when the vertebral segments in the spine narrow, placing extra pressure on the nerves. Symptoms may include:
pain while walking
pain after prolonged standing
pain that usually improves when a person leans forward at the waist
5. Achilles tendinitis The Achilles tendon is a strong tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Tight calf muscles put extra pressure on the Achilles tendon. As a result, a person can experience calf pain and/or Achilles tendonitis.People are more likely to experience Achilles tendinitis if they have recently started an exercise program or they perform repetitive exercises. Frequent stretching can often help to reduce this type of calf pain.
6. Compartment syndrome
Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that can occur in the calf muscles, and can often result when a person has experienced a trauma or severe injury. It occurs when excess blood or fluid builds up underneath a band of tough tissues in the body that cannot stretch very well causing excessive compression. This fluid places extra pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the lower leg, causing pain, swelling, numbness, and tingling. Another form of compartment syndrome is chronic or exertional compartment syndrome. This type occurs when a person experiences pain while exercising. Symptoms associated with chronic compartment syndrome include numbness, visible bulging or enlarging of muscles, or trouble moving the foot.
7. Diabetic neuropathy Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that occurs when a person experiences nerve damage from a result of diabetes. Frequently high blood sugar levels can damage the body's nerves, usually beginning with the hands and feet.
8. Plantar fasciitis Plantar fasciitis is a condition that affects the plantar fascia tissue on the bottom of the foot. If the calf muscles are too tight, a person may be more likely to experience plantar fascia because the calf muscles cannot support the foot. Also this can result from poor foot and ankle biomechanics. The most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis are foot pain when waking and difficulty flexing the foot. especially paying first thing in the morning.
9. Varicose veins Varicose veins are enlarged veins that often bulge from the legs. They develop when damaged valves in a person's veins allow blood to backflow. Contributing factors may include
A family history
Lack of exercise
Varicose most commonly appear in the legs and can cause pain, throbbing, cramping, and aching.
10. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the result of a blood clot that forms in one of the veins in the leg. This condition can cause severe pain and affect blood flow to the legs. People are more likely to develop DVT if they have spent long periods being inactive, such as on a flight, or if they have high blood pressure or blood clotting disorders. Symptoms of DVT include calf pain that usually gets worse when standing or walking. A person's leg may also swell and have a red or inflamed area due to the problems with blood flow.
Treatment for calf pain will depend on the cause. People can treat calf pain that is the result of injury or overuse using the PRICE method. This stands for: Protection: Apply a cloth bandage, splint, or immobilizer to the foot, ankle, or calf to protect the injury and allow the muscles to rest.
Rest: Avoid using the calf muscle more than necessary.
Ice: Apply a cloth-covered ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes at a time to help reduce inflammation.
Compression: Wrap the calf in a stretchy, tight bandage or wear a compression stocking to reduce swelling.
Elevation: Elevate the leg on pillows to help promote circulation and reduce swelling. Other causes of calf pain may be treated with medications or other medical procedures, depending on the underlying cause.
Warming up by walking at a moderate pace before engaging in more intense exercise can help to prevent muscle strain injuries. In addition to these measures, a person may also choose to do some gentle stretching to reduce muscle tightness after exercise.
If pain continues it is always important to get a further clinical assessment carried out.
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