Calf Muscle Strain
(Pulled Calf Muscle; Gastrocnemius Strain; Gastrocnemius Tear; Gastrocnemius Muscle Injury)
A calf muscle strain is a partial or complete tear of the small fibers of the muscles. The calf muscles are located in the back of your lower leg.
|The Calf Muscles
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A calf muscle strain can be caused by:
- Stretching the calf muscles beyond the amount of tension they can withstand
- Suddenly putting stress on the calf muscles when they are not ready for the stress
- A direct blow to the calf muscles
Factors that increase your chance of developing a calf muscle strain:
- Participation in sports that require bursts of speed. This includes track sports like running, hurdles, or long jump. Other sports include basketball, soccer, football, or rugby.
- Previous strain or injury to the area
- Muscle fatigue
- Tight calf muscles
- Poor conditioning
Symptoms may include:
- Pain and tenderness in the calf
- Stiffness in the calf muscles
- Weakness of the calf muscles
- Pain when pushing off the foot or standing on tiptoe
- Bruising on the calf
- Popping sensation as the muscle tears
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Most calf muscle strains can be diagnosed with a physical exam. Images may be needed of the area if severe damage is suspected. Images may be taken with
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
- Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of muscle fibers
- Grade 2—Partial tearing of muscle fibers
- Grade 3—Complete tearing of muscle fibers; this may also be called a rupture or avulsion
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:
Your muscle will need time to heal. RICE is often the main part of treatment:
- Rest—Activities will need to be restricted at first. Normal activities will be reintroduced gradually.
- Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling. Heat or cold may be advised throughout recovery if they provide benefits.
- Compression—Used for a limited time, compression bandages can provide gentle pressure to help move fluids out of the area.
- Elevation—Keeping the area elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.
A physical therapist will assess the muscle. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to stretch and strengthen the muscle.
To reduce the chance of calf muscle strain:
- Keep your calf muscles strong and flexible, so they can absorb the energy of sudden physical stress
- Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities to decrease stress on all your muscles
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Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
EBSCO Medical Review BoardMichael Woods, MD
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