Sore Calf Muscles: 7 Common Causes with Treatment

Whether you are engaged with sports or not, you may experience sore calf muscles. Calves are composed of ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles, which are all susceptible to infection, injuries, and other health conditions. Calf pain is the sensation of discomfort in the tissue behind the lower leg. This condition may be maddening or incapacitating as you cannot put your weight on your legs when you stand or walk.

If you have sore calf muscles, you may experience throbbing, tingling, or piercing sensations. The pain-like sensation, also described as pins and needles, burning, or pricking, is called paresthesias. You can prevent sore calf muscles, strain, or injury by stretching before performing any physical activity. There are many treatments available to deal with this problem.

Sore Calf Muscles
Sore Calf Muscles

Risk Factors of Sore Calf Muscles

Some factors increase the chance of a person experiencing sore calf muscles. The factors may relate to one’s lifestyle, habits, and health.

  • Exercise and sports – Participating in sports gives you a higher chance to develop sore calf muscles. These sports include football, basketball, hurdles, long jump, and soccer.
  • Tight calf muscles – If the calf muscles are tighter than normal due to overuse, medical condition, or lack of stretch, it can lead to sore calf muscles.
  • Weather – Cold temperature can cause the expansion of tissue around the joints. This puts pressure on the joints and leads to muscle pain.

Symptoms of Sore Calf Muscles

The symptoms of calf pain depend on the main cause: injury, disease, or disorder. For instance, an inflammation in the calf may go with by redness of the area. Calf pain caused by pulled muscles may show swelling. The symptoms of sore calf muscles include:

  • Numbness of the area
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling and skin bumps
  • Skin discoloration
  • Reduced mobility
  • Burning sensation
  • Muscle spasms that occur during the night
  • Varicose veins
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, sore throat, dizziness, cough, fever

7 Common Causes of Sore Calf Muscles

There are many reasons why calf muscle pain or tight calf muscles arise. Sore calf muscles can be due to nerve problems, medical conditions, injuries, problems in the arteries, or age.

The pain may last shorter or for a long period of time. This may affect a small part of the whole calf or just a small area.  In most cases, this condition is not serious and can be easily prevented and treated at home.

However, diseases, problems with circulation, and other medical conditions can cause sore calf muscles. There are cases that sore calf muscles are a sign of a life-threatening disease.

1. Injury

Injury happens when the muscles are used too much and leads to pulling, straining, or tearing the calf muscles.

  • Muscle cramps, also known as Charley horses, result from the overuse of the calf muscles. It can also be due to exercise. These are muscle spasms that lead to discomfort. It may strike in the middle of the day or during your sleep.
  • Calf muscle strain is one of the common injuries that lead to calf pain. This injury happens when the calf muscles are pulled or stretched and result in the muscles’ tearing. You may experience swelling, discomfort, and bruises. You can feel the pain more when standing, walking, or stretching.

2. Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon is overused and injured. This condition is the tissue that connects your calf muscles behind your lower leg down to the heel bone.

This condition usually occurs in runners in runners who suddenly increased the duration or intensity of their performance. Other people, especially middle-aged players who play sports like basketball and tennis, may also experience Achilles tendonitis.

The pain caused by Achilles tendonitis start as a mild ache behind the leg. The condition can be severe after continuous running, sprinting, or stair climbing. You may also experience other symptoms, including stiffness and tenderness. This condition causes discomfort, and it may take months before your Achilles tendon becomes completely healed.

3. Nerve Entrapment

Compression of the nerves in the lower leg can lead to sore calf muscles. You can experience numbness, tingling, pins and needles, weakness, and burning sensation in the affected area.

Nerves are responsible for transporting the messages on how and when the muscles should work, determining sensations, and controlling the body. Damaged nerves can affect the ability to transport messages these messages, and they react by sending signals or pain.

Nerve entrapment can be serious if you are experiencing these symptoms:

  • Bladder or Bowel Dysfunction
  • A weakness of the leg
  • Numbness in the saddle area between the legs

If you think that you or someone you know has a trapped nerve, it is best to visit your doctor for a better checkup.

4.  Bakers Cyst

A baker is a fluid-filled cyst that causes a tightness sensation behind the knee. To determine if this is the cause of your sore calf muscles, check the back of your knee and look for a bulge.

The pain may get worse when trying to extend the knee or when walking or running. People who have a problem with the knee joint are more likely to have a baker’s cyst, such as a cartilage tear or arthritis. It can lead to swelling and discomfort. The symptoms of baker’s cyst include:

  • Inability to flex the knee
  • Knee pain
  • Swelling

When the baker’s cyst bursts, it can cause swelling, sharp pain in the knee, and a feeling of water flowing down your leg. It is best to seek medical help to understand your symptoms better, as it can sign a more serious disease.

5. Muscle Imbalance

Another cause of sore calf muscles is a muscle imbalance. This refers to the weakness and tightness in the calf and may occur when standing on your feet for a long period of time. Working your calf muscles regularly and properly can help you resolve this problem. You can look for many calf stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent muscle imbalance.

6. Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT or deep vein thrombosis is blood clots forming in one or more deep veins in the body. This usually occurs in the legs and can cause swelling or sore calf muscles.

This may also occur without showing any symptoms. DVT can occur if you are taking certain medications that affect the clotting of your blood. Another cause of DVT is inactivity for a long period of time, such as confinement after surgery.

This condition is serious as the blood clots in the veins may break loose. It can travel through the bloodstream and block the blood flow in your lungs (pulmonary embolism). The symptoms of DVT include swelling in the affected area and pain accompanied by soreness or cramping. If you have symptoms of DVT, visit your doctor for assistance.

The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that becomes worse when taking deep breaths
  • Dizziness
  • Blood in coughs
  • Rapid pulse

If you develop symptoms of pulmonary embolism, seek medical attention right away.

7. Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease, or peripheral artery disease, is the narrowing of the arteries that slows down blood circulation. The most common causes of PVD include:

  • Smoking
  • High level of cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

If the condition is severe, the calf area, leg, or foot can change color. This requires medical attention immediately.

Natural Ways to Treat First-Degree Sore Calf Muscles

Here are the ways to treat first-degree sore calf muscles:

1. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)

As soon as your calf area hurts, take a rest, and prevent walking, running, or moving too much. Apply an ice pack or anything cold to your calf muscles for fifteen minutes. Wrap a bandage around your calf to reduce the pain; make sure not to wrap your calf too tight or too loose. Elevate your ankle above the heart.

2. Avoid straining your muscles

Avoid straining your muscles, as it can lead to serious muscle injury.

3. Drink plenty of water

One factor that can lead to sore calf muscles is dehydration. If your body is dehydrated, your muscles are more prone to injury and strains. Make sure that you drink plenty of water before and after exercising. In the case of calf pain, it is recommended to increase the level of your fluid consumption.

4. Stretching exercises

Stretching is important in treating sore calf muscles. When the pain is reduced, you can start stretching your muscles every day. Make sure that the exercise is not painful.

5. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Proper diet plays an important role in the treatment of sore calf muscles. Ensure that you consume more fresh fruits and vegetables to acquire the necessary nutrients for a faster healing process.

6. Wear comfortable footwear

Whether you are engaged in sports or not, it is important to wear the right footwear to prevent Achilles tendonitis and other health conditions. In case of sore calf muscles, it is recommended to use orthopedic shoes to prevent further injury.

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