Calf muscle strain is one of the common types of muscle strains that usually occur during athletics or any other games. Calf muscle is the group of muscles which are situated at the backside of lower leg and it consist of two major muscle groups, one of which originates above the knee joint called gastrocnemius and the other one originates from beneath the knee joint which is known as soleus.

These muscle groups enter the heel bone through Achilles tendon. When any of these muscles are forcibly stretched beyond a limit, it causes muscle tear. This muscle tear is called as the calf muscle strain or calf pull. Based on the depth of the muscle tear, calf muscle strain is divided into three levels.

Grade 1 calf muscle strain

This level of calf muscle strain occurs when the calf muscle is stretched to cause micro tears in the muscle fibers. This strain is associated with tightness, pain and cramping when the calf muscles are contracted or stretched. The normal recovery period from such type of strains is two weeks.

Grade 2 calf muscle strain

This level of muscle strain involves partial tearing of calf muscle and the injured area will be very tender to touch and will be accompanied by severe pain. At times the bruising is visible beneath the injured spot. Full recovery from such calf muscle strain may take five to six weeks.

Grade 3 calf muscle strain

This third level of calf muscle strain is the complete tearing or rupture of the calf muscle and the patients experience very severe pain. Bulge or lump of tissues can be seen on the affected area and such strains require treatment from a doctor, as surgery is a common treatment in such cases. Complete recovery from these type of strains requires three to four months on .

Treatment Of Calf Muscle Strain

The best and foremost treatment for strained calf muscle is RICE, which means rest, ice pack, compression bandage and elevation. This treatment helps to reduce secondary tissue damages in the calf muscle.

  1. Rest

After the calf strain, most of the people return quickly to their routine work and this extends the recovery period. The strained muscles should get adequate rest to recover from the strain, hence stop doing activities that cause pain.

Also avoid all excessive stretching activities like jumping, running, weightlifting etc. till you recover completely from the strain.

  1. Ice pack

Apply ice packs on the injured area for twenty minutes, this protect the calf muscle from further damage. Repeat this ice therapy of twenty minutes for about four times a day and extend this therapy for a few days. But, care should be taken not to apply ice directly on the skin rather wrap the ice with a thin towel and apply.

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  1. Compression bandage

Compression bandage helps to limit the swelling associated with strain. Wrap the bandage from the toes up towards the injured area and this helps to prevent the formation of any swelling underneath the wrapping.

When you wrap the calf muscle, don’t wrap the strained muscle too tightly. The compression bandage has built in elasticity, which helps to provide compression to the calf muscles even without wrapping them tightly.

  1. Elevation

Keep your affected feet in an elevated position, which is above your heart level. This elevated positioning helps to reduce the swelling and it should be practiced mainly within first twenty-four hours of injury.

  1. Anti-inflammatory Drugs

In order to cope with the pain you can take naproxen or ibuprofen. If in any case you are not able to take anti-inflammatory drugs, take acetaminophen.

However it is always ideal to consult the doctor before taking any medication.

  1. Exercises for Calf Strain

Physiotherapist will help you with suitable exercises and usually these exercises are to be practiced thrice a day, provided your symptoms and pain won’t increase after the exercise. Physiotherapist will help you to initiate the first phase of exercises and then take it to the intermediate and then to stage of final exercises. For grade 1 calf muscle strain, exercises may be started from day 7 to 9 after injury.

  1. Calf Stretch with Towel

Sit down with your affected leg extended in front of you and make sure your back is straight. Grab a towel roughly around the foot and draw the both ends of the towel towards you.

With the help of the ankle, foot and towel bring your toes towards you till you experience a stretch on the lower back of your leg. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise for ten times.

  1. Resistance Band Exercise

Sit in the said position and keep a resistance band around the foot, while pulling the resistance band towards you, move your ankle and foot downwards against the band till it reaches a point of discomfort. As the muscles gain strength, increase the pressure on the band.

Once you become comfortable with the initial exercises, move to the core strengthening and stability exercises and gradually return to your normal life.

Calf muscle strain causes a lot of pan, it is essentially one of the initial pains experienced by the athletes and other persons in the sports’ field. Water helps in the retention of temperature. An ice pack could help, but it should be made sure that ice is not applied directly on the skin, and through a wrapped cloth.