The calf is a common source of pain/injury particularly in sports involving running and jumping. It is largely made up of 2 muscles; the gastrocnemius (which is typically used for power), and the soleus (more involved in prolonged activity). These muscles then attach to the Achilles tendon which can also be a common source of pain (Please see our page dedicated to Achilles Tendinopathy). A branch of the sciatic nerve travels through the calf, and another a cause not to be overlooked could involve a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). All of which your Physiotherapist at Pure will rule out and give you appropriate advice as needed.
Typically occurring in power/sprinting/jumping activities. You will typically feel a specific pull of the muscle and it will be acutely painful, possibly with bruising of the area. These can be graded from 1-3 based on severity, and generally have good outcomes with the correct assessment and management.
Non-specific / Overuse Muscular Calf Pain
Most commonly comes on gradually over the course of a distance run, or period of increased training intensity, when the demands of the activity can surpass the tolerance of the tissues. These can also occur due to biomechanical reasons such as how the foot is distributing load into the calf on impact.
Referred / Sciatic Calf Pain
This pain may radiate from the back and may track down the back of the leg via the sciatic nerve, into the calf. It can be sharp, or a heavy ache, but also potentially cause pins and needles/numbness sensations. This can occur suddenly, or gradually over a period of time.
Typically develops from prolonged periods sitting/immobility e.g. on long haul flights/a period on bed rest. The key signs to look out for include calf swelling and pain, redness, hot to the touch, cramping of the legs, and potentially discoloration of the area. If this is suspected it requires urgent medical input, so be sure to liaise with your physio of GP at pace if your symptoms fit the above description.
At Pure, your clinician will take a detailed history of your symptoms alongside a comprehensive physical assessment which will help to ascertain the cause of your symptoms. By providing a timely and precise diagnosis, the most effective treatment and management plan cam be implemented to ensure the best possible outcome is achieved. Your goals are placed at the forefront of treatment to make certain that you can work towards achieving those aims. Pure Physiotherapy place a strong emphasis on regular re-assessment to check that you are making suitable progress and to review your management so that it remains optimal.
Your Physiotherapist will provide you with an explanation on where they think your symptoms are arising from and can educate you on how to effectively manage your symptoms. We believe that empowering our patients with the knowledge and understanding of their issue facilitates faster and more effective recovery. Your Physiotherapist will discuss strategies that may help you perform your normal daily activities with some useful adjustments, and, will talk about what you can do at home to relieve your discomfort. We also provide ongoing advice and support to ensure you can continue to manage independently and to prevent future re-occurrence.
Most causes of calf pain settle well with appropriate Physiotherapy. When considering muscular calf pain, the correct advice is vital to ensure a phased/graded return to sport/activity to reduce to risk of re-injury all of which we provide at Pure Physiotherapy.
Appropriate strength and conditioning is required to rehabilitate the area, or increase the tolerance of the muscles so they can handle increased demand. Please find the patient resources section of our website where we have created a series of recommended exercise programmes for strengthening the calf complex. We advise consulting with your Physiotherapist prior to trying any of these exercises.
At Pure, we will also assess your biomechanics (the way you walk/alignment of the feet/lower limbs) to see if this is contributing, and advice on suitable strategies to adapt if required.