Calf pain what is it?
The back of the leg body is the region commonly referred to as the calf. The calf is comprised of two muscles — the gastrocnemius and the soleus. There are also two bones in this region, tibia, and fibula. Issues with any of these elements could cause calf pain. Typically feels like a sharp pain, sometimes with tightness, in the back of the lower leg.
Causes of calf pain?
There are several that can affect the calf muscles, as well as the other structures around it.
- Muscle cramp. These symptoms are very common in patients who exercise frequently, usually temporary but can produce significant pain and discomfort.
- Calf Muscle Strain: This is the most common cause of acute onset calf pain. Usually, this injury occurs during a sports or exercise activity.
- Medial Gastrocnemius Strain: The medial gastrocnemius is the part of the calf muscle most commonly injured.
- Plantaris Muscle Rupture: The plantaris muscle can rupture, causing a sudden, snapping pain in the back of the leg.
- Achilles Tendonitis/Rupture: The Achilles tendon is the connection between the calf muscles and the heel. Achilles ruptures that occur higher up on the tendon should be considered when evaluating calf pain.
- Baker’s Cyst: A Baker’s cyst is a collection of knee-joint fluid that has pooled in the back of the knee.
- Arterial claudication. It may cause pain while walking, as this movement requires blood to flow to the lower legs.
- Neurogenic Claudication. It occurs when the nerves that go to the legs are pinched, affecting their ability to communicate with the lower legs.
- Compartment syndrome. It is a painful condition that can occur in the calf muscle or in both legs, usually after a person has experienced a trauma or severe injury.
- Diabetic neuropathy. It is a condition that occurs when a person experiences nerve damage related to diabetes.
- Plantar fasciitis It is a condition that affects the plantar fascia tissue located on the bottom of the foot.
- Varicose veins.
- Deep vein thrombosis It 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.
How can physiotherapy help treat calf pain and calf injuries?
Physiotherapy can diagnose the presenting pathology and then treat/ refer onwards as required. Physiotherapy is particularly helpful in the management of a muscular strain and muscle contraction. It is very important to identify the cause of calf pain because there are medical conditions associated with this pain that should be treated with accuracy and urgency, which can lead to death if not resolved.
Considered exercise programme
The objectives of the management are to reduce pain, restore flexibility and restore the strength of the affected area. The major treatment of any strain consists of rest and allowing adequate healing time. Surgery in some cases may be necessary. Conservative treatment usually includes a programme of passive stretching, isometric and onto concentric exercises.
Isotonic exercises for the antagonist muscles tibialis anterior, and the peronei are recommended and exercises for the injured muscle with the aim to improve the mobility.
There are many exercises with the aim to relieve the pain produced by muscle contraction. These exercises include:
- The Runner’s Stretch:
- The Seated Calf Stretch
- The Towel Calf Stretch