Calf Strains

The gastrocnemius muscle (the larger of the two muscles that connects above the knee joint and runs down to the heel bone) and soleus muscle (the smaller of the two muscles that attaches below the knee joint and runs to the heel bone through the Achilles) make up the calf muscles. One or both can be strained. Depending on the severity of the calf strain, the injured person may be able to walk—albeit in some discomfort—or may not be able to put any pressure on the injured leg at all. In most cases, calf strains present with a sharp pain in the calf muscle and tenderness to the touch. Swelling and bruising also are common. Calf strain treatment typically includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Ice should be applied immediately—in ten- to fifteen-minute increments every hour—to suppress any internal bleeding. Some medical professionals also may recommend wearing a heel pad, which shortens the calf muscle, thereby alleviating some of the pressure from the strain. Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication also may helpful. Physical therapy for calf strains may include ultrasound to relieve pain and swelling as well as therapeutic massage to stimulate blood flow, stretch the muscle, and undo knots or lumps. Most programs also will include specific exercises and stretches designed to strengthen the calf muscle and prevent recurrence.