Calf Injuries, Treatments and recovery

Anatomy of the Calf Muscles

diagram of calf muscle

The calf muscle is located on the back of the lower leg below the knee, its made up of two main muscles.

The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle. The gastrocnemius has two parts or “heads,” which together create its diamond shape.

The soleus is a smaller, flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle.

The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles merge at the base of the calf muscle. Tough connective tissue at the bottom of the calf muscle merges with the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone (calcaneus).

while walking, running, or jumping, the calf muscles pull the heel up to allow forward movement.

What causes pain in the calf muscle?

Often pain in the calf muscles are related to injuries such as;

  • calf strain
  • Plantaris muscle rupture
  • Medial gastrocnemius strain
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Bakers cyst
  • Blood clot
  • Leg cramps

The severity of pain varies from person to person, typically a sharp, dull or aching pain, with more severe symptoms like swelling, weakness of the leg, fluid retention or redness,warmth or tenderness of the calf.

  • Grade 1 Calf Strain- Mild discomfort with minimal or no limit to activity.
  • Grade 2 Calf Strain-  Discomfort with activities such as walking, with possible swelling bruising and tenderness.
  • Grade 3 Calf Strain- Severe pain that can cause inability to walk with swelling and significant bruising.

Calf strain

Calf strains are very common and causes by overstretching or excess force through the lower leg.

How long does it take to a calf strain to heal?

Grade 1 can heal between 7- 10 days.

Grade 2 can be within about 4- 6 weeks.

Grade 3 usually within 3 months time scale.

What Treatment can i apply for a calf strain?

Always seek medical advice and assistance with in 48 hours.

Apply the principals of RICE

Rest- avoid activities to protect the muscle from ore damage.

Ice- use ice packs such as Physicool (as seen below) or frozen peas anything that can cool the affected area to reduce inflammation.

physicool wrapped on a calf muscle

Compression- to provide support and also reduce swelling.

Elevate-  place the affected area up higher than normal to decrease swelling. example- place leg up on a chair while siting.

Applying the RICE procedure will help with the healing process and help you on your way to recovery after suffering an injury, hopefully getting you back to activities and daily routines quicker.


What exercises can i do for a calf strain?

Some exercises to help with rehabilitation of the injured calf. Once the calf is pain free you can progress with gentle light stretches of the calf, start and ease your way into the stretch. You can push more into the stretch if no pain occurs.

Calf wall stretch.
  1. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level. Put your affected leg about a step behind your other leg.
  2. Keeping your back leg straight and your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee and gently bring your hip and chest toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
  3. Hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
calf stretch 1
calf stretch 2
Ankle plantar flexion
  1. Sit with your affected leg straight and supported on the floor. Your other leg should be bent.
  2. Keeping your affected leg straight, gently flex your foot downward so your toes are pointed away from your body. Then slowly relax your foot to the starting position.
  3. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Calf raise
  1. Stand behind a chair or counter with both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Using the chair or counter as a support, rise up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the support.

Using a Trigger ball on my calf.

Lie on the floor while placing the rigger ball or peanut under the bulk of the calf muscle, then slowly roll up and down using your arms to desired areas (mainly the tight areas) rotating the leg either side to hit every area.

You can stop, hold an apply more pressure in tighter areas to trigger and release the muscle.