A calf strain is an injury to the muscles of the back of the leg. Most commonly, calf strains are minor tears of some muscle fibers, but the bulk of the muscle tissue remains intact. More severe strains can cause a complete tear of the muscle and loss of function. It is important to be able to differentiate the difference between a muscle strain and a muscle sprain. A muscle strain involves an injury to the muscles.
A muscle sprain involves an injury to the bands of tissue that connect the two bones together. Both share similar symptoms including: A sudden pain is felt in the calf, with an audible or palpable "pop" reported in the medial aspect of the posterior calf, or you have a feeling as though someone has kicked you in the back of the leg. Substantial pain and swelling usually develop during the following 24 hours. However, the main difference is that the pain in a muscle sprain is felt in the muscle belly while a muscle strain is felt at the joint.
Not all calves are torn equally. To better understand calf injuries, we need to take a look at the anatomy. A calf muscle strain can occur to either of the two primary‘calf muscles’: the soleus or
The lower leg is a vital component to walking especially during movements of power and endurance. The primary function of the calf muscle is for plantarflexion of the foot and ankle. This allows the push-off in walking, running, jumping, and stair climbing. More than 50% of running force propulsion is generated from the lower leg during plantar flexion. Given the force developed by the calf, it is understandable that this muscle group can be a potential site of muscular injury for an athlete, or anyone else.
Common Symptoms of a Calf Strain:
What Does a Calf Strain Feel Like?
Pain in the posterior lower leg (calf area) may be contributed by other things beside a calf strain. Below is a list of a few differential diagnoses:
Classifying a muscle strain is done using the 1-3 scale with 3 being the highest degree of muscle strain. The grades are:
How can you rehab a calf injury?
A calf injury can be rehabbed through time, compliance, and progressive loading. This means, settling the initial symptoms down, progressively increasing the calf musculature strength, and returning to activity. Successful rehabilitation following a strain is done through progressive strengthening which will of course take time.
If you have injured your calf muscles or are experiencing pain in the back of your lower leg, get in touch with your physical therapist in order to target the problem. Your Physical Therapist will ask a number of questions to determine if you have strained your calf and to determine how severe the damage is. Advice from your Physical Therapist on the acceptable level of activity at each stage of your rehabilitation process will be invaluable, and will assist you in returning to your activities as quickly but as safely as possible. Contact us today for a free discovery visit.
Dr. Jack Wong
Leading Physical Therapist In The Kingwood Area