Before learning the different ways you can treat a strained calf, the most important question first would be: what is a strained calf?
The strained calf is a rare injury in your calf muscle. It is found at the back of your lower leg that consists of two muscles: gastrocnemius and soleus. This muscle is in action every time you run or walk around. But sometimes, accidents can happen and it could lead to injuries such as calf muscle strain, pulled calf muscle, calf muscle tear, or even calf muscle rupture.
How do you get a strained calf?
Most of the time, strained calf happens when you are running at high speed or jumping. Basically, when you are doing an uncoordinated or forceful movement. The most common victims of this condition are dancers, basketball players, and gymnasts.
You will get a strained calf by tearing or overstretching your calf muscle. Once you have this injury, you are most likely to have a hard time walking, running, or climbing the stairs.
Three Levels of Strained Calf
There are three levels under this sprain. The level will depend on how damaged the muscle is.
- Level 1: You will go under this level when you have a mild tearing or partial stretch in some of your muscle fibers. Although you will still feel pain, you will not have a hard time walking.
- Level 2: In this level, you have a moderate stretch in more parts of your muscle. You will feel a pulling sensation or snaps even after the injury as well. In addition, you will feel more pain in this level compared with the first one. There is also a chance for the damaged part to have bruises.
- Level 3: As expected, this level has the severe cases of a strained calf. Even those with a complete tear of the muscle are included in this level. You will see bruises and sometimes even a dent in the said area. If you are under this level, expect that you will have a hard time walking or doing your daily routine that includes your legs.
It is important to note that in some cases, you will have bruises in other parts of your body such as foot or ankle. This is because when the muscle tears or overstretch, there will be bleeding that can lead to bruising. Most of the time, the escaped blood will go down and affect the other parts of your leg thus the reason there are bruises in your foot as well.
How Will You Know If You Have a Strained Calf?
Besides feeling pain in your calf area, you will experience a lot of signs when you have a strained calf. Some of these include bruising, tightness in the area, and limping, among others. When these symptoms occur, it is best that you go to your doctor.
The doctor will undergo an evaluation to see if you really have a strained calf or if the pain that you are feeling is connected to another ailment. He will ask you the following:
- What were you doing when you felt pain?
- What part of your leg hurts the most?
- Is there a “pop” sound when you got injured?
- Did the injury hit your calf area?
- Is there a bruise or swelling in the calf area after the incident?
- Do you have a hard time moving or using your leg?
Afterward, the doctor will check the damaged area by looking for bruises or swelling. He or she might even ask you to walk. Some doctors, however, would immediately ask you to undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or x-ray.
Strained Calf Rehab
Once the doctor confirms that you have indeed a strained calf, he or she may ask you to do R.I.C.E: rest, ice, compress and elevate.
- Rest. Since you are already having a hard time using your leg, assuming that you are, it is recommended that you take a rest for a few days. Meaning to say, you are not allowed to do any extraneous activities that may involve the use of your leg including running or weightlifting. If you are an athlete, then you are not allowed to play any game until you are pain-free.
- Ice. One way to reduce the swelling is by applying ice in the injured area. In this case, you should place ice in your calf with 20 minutes intervals. You can do this several times a day. Take note that you should cover the ice with a towel before placing it on your calf.
- Compression. To protect your injury and reduce the pain, you can wrap your calf in an elastic compression bandage. This will also prevent the blood from pooling in other parts of your leg.
- Elevation. You can also elevate your foot to reduce swelling. Make sure that the elevation is above your heart.
There are also exercises that may help with strained calf:
- Achilles tendon strengthening: This is done to strengthen your Achilles tendon and prevent you from having leg injuries.
- Motion exercises: You can do a range of motion workouts by pulling your leg straight for up to 10 times.
- Exercise with a foam roller: You can use a foam roller under your calf to improve blood circulation in that area. It will also reduce the risk of scar tissue formation.
- Calf stretching exercises: These exercises may condition your calf to prevent injuries.
Note: You need an expert opinion of a professional therapist for these exercises. So be sure to contact your doctor or visit a physical therapy clinic for these workouts.
There are also instances when the doctor will recommend that you buy anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the pain. These drugs are usually taken in the first three days after your injury.
The objectives of the abovementioned exercises are to eliminate pain and make sure that your calf muscle is working perfectly as normal again. So it is always better to you ask for help from a professional before doing any kind of treatment.