What Is A Calf Strain?
A calf strain is caused by overstretching or tearing any of the 9 muscles of the calf - in the back of your leg below your knee. This type of injury is often called a pulled muscle.
What Is The Cause?
You can strain your calf muscle when you do an activity that involves pushing off forcefully from your toes. For example, it may happen when you are running, jumping, or lunging.
Calf muscle injuries are relatively common among those who play tennis, basketball, football, soccer and volleyball, as well as those who run track and field.
Grades of Calf Strain
A muscle strain is graded according to the amount of muscle damage that has occurred:
- Grade 1. A mild or partial stretch or tearing of a few muscle fibers. The muscle is tender and painful, but maintains its normal strength. Use of the leg is not impaired, and walking is normal.
- Grade 2. A moderate stretch or tearing of a greater percentage of the muscle fibers. A snapping or pulling sensation may occur at the time of the injury and after the injury. There is more tenderness and pain, noticeable loss of strength, and sometimes bruising. Use of the leg is visibly impaired, and limping when walking is common.
- Grade 3. A severe tear of the muscle fibers, sometimes a complete muscle tear. A “popping” or snapping sound may be heard or felt when the injury occurs - A feeling that someone has hit you in the back of the leg. Bruising is apparent, and sometimes a “dent” in the muscle where it is torn is visible beneath the skin. Use of the leg is extremely difficult, and putting weight on the leg is very painful.
Getting a proper diagnosis of your calf muscle strain is crucial because it determines the type of treatment protocols you should follow.
How Is It Treated?
Your healthcare provider or physical therapist may tape the injured muscle while it heals to help you return to athletic activities. Taping helps reduce movement that may cause more muscle damage. They may recommend wearing an elastic or neoprene sleeve around your calf, and exercises that you can do at home to help you return to your normal lifestyle and activities.
A mild strain may heal within a few days. A more severe strain may take 6 weeks or longer to heal.
Self-Treatment For Calf Strain
The most effective treatment protocol for most sprain / strain injuries is abbreviated R.I.C.E. and stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Some exercises that may help:
How Can I Help Prevent A Calf Strain?
Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. This is especially important if you are doing jumping or sprinting sports.