What are the Symptoms of a Strained Calf Muscle?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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The symptoms of a strained calf muscle will vary depending on the severity of the injury. A minor strain may involve a small amount of sharp pain followed by some soreness, but the ability to use the calf muscle may not be impaired. A more severe strainmay exhibit the same symptoms as a light strain, but the soreness and pain may be more severe, and the ability to use the muscle may be lost for several hours or even several days. A complete inability to use the muscle combined with severe pain may indicate a strained calf muscle or a torn calf muscle.

Light strains will cause a sharp pain anywhere in the calf. One may still be able to use the muscle, though it is likely to feel tender and weak, and soreness is likely after exercise has ceased. The muscle will feel tight for a few days, and light stretching can alleviate much of the pain. One should rest the muscle for several hours to several days should such an injury occur. If pain persists, over the counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be taken to dull the pain. Physical therapy is probably not necessary for such strains.


More severe instances of a strained calf muscle may include swelling and bruising of the leg. In this case, one should execute the RICE method of treatment immediately. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Icing the injury will help prevent swelling and bruising, and resting the injury allows the muscles to repair themselves naturally. The rest portion of the recuperation process could take anywhere from a day to several weeks, but it should not be rushed; not allowing the leg to rest may cause re-injury or exacerbation of the current injury. Physical therapy is very likely necessary for such injuries.

The most severe instances of a strained calf muscle may result in a muscle tear or full rupture. In this case, the muscles may detach and bunch up at a certain point in the calf. Immediate medical attention is necessary should such an injury occur, as surgery may be necessary to repair the calf muscles. These types of injuries are more likely in athletes and people with very tight calf muscles. A regular routine of exercise and stretching can prevent such injuries, and a variety of easy calf stretches can be done with little or no special equipment at home or in the office.



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