Sore Calf Muscles

Possible Causes of Sore Calf Muscles


For many people sore calf muscles are an occasional part of life. Overexertion, overuse and improper stretching before exercise can cause muscles to feel tired or sore. Injuries, whether severe or mild can also cause people to feel soreness or pain in their calf muscles, and sudden pain and swelling may be a sign of more complicated medical problems. Occasional sore calf muscles may be slightly bothersome, but more extreme, sudden or long term pain may require that you check in with your doctor.


Almost everyone has overworked their muscles at some point in their lives. Not properly stretching before or after exercise, working the muscle too hard or even sudden moves that place too much pressure on the muscles can lead to soreness. This soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers that cause swelling and pain in the affected area.  Luckily this is temporary and treatable. Treating sore calf muscles from overexertion means using the old RICE method. Rest, ice compresses every 20 minutes, compressing the muscle to prevent swelling and elevating the muscle is the best way to relieve the pain. You can also take an over the counter anti-inflammatory to help reduce the pain and swelling, as well as massaging the muscle and using a muscle cream. Stretching will also help as long as you do it slowly and so that it does not cause too much pain. Proper stretching before exercise and training your muscles to endure heavy work is the best way to prevent future sore muscles due to exercise.


More serious injuries such as tearing or pulling a muscle can cause calf pain to be more severe. A muscle strain or tear is when the muscle is pulled away from the tendons. This usually occurs from sudden changes of direction during exercise. You may feel a sudden painful feeling; you might hear a pop sound and probably will be unable to stand on your toes afterwards. Soon bruising around the foot and ankle from bleeding may occur. There are 3 grades of muscle tears and strains, tiny micro tears are not usually very serious and with RICE treatments they usually heal in about 2 weeks. Partial tears do more damage so they may take as long as 5-8weeks to heal. A complete tear of a muscle is not only very painful but can take 3-4 months to heal and may even require surgery. Added to RICE therapies and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, muscles strains may also require physical therapy such as range of motion exercises, rehab, stretching exercises and hot and cold therapy to heal them. Again proper stretching before exercise and maintaining good muscle conditioning is the best way to avoid this type of injury.


Bad posture or allowing your muscles to hyperpronate can also cause sore calf muscles to develop. Improper posture causes the person to lean forward and makes their calf muscles work hard to keep standing. Hyperpronating ankles also cause pain in the calves as the arches begin support weight when they should not be and this in turn pulls on the calf muscles. Maintaining a proper balanced standing posture and using shoe inserts that correct posture can help reduce this kind of pain.


Sudden pain that is relieved when exercise is stopped, along with discoloration, swelling or lumps under the skin may be signs of a more serious problem. If the calf pain goes away after about 5-10 minutes after exercise is stopped, improper blood flow may be the cause. Arterial insufficiency causes not enough oxygen to get to the muscles during exercise. This usually occurs because of arthrosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. While bruising and swelling that remains for several days after exercise may be a sign of vein insufficiency or when not enough blood is pumped away from the muscles. In extreme cases of vein insufficiency, a serious condition called deep-vein thrombophlebitis can occur. Usually muscle pain from this type of blood flow constriction of veins and arteries can be managed through RICE therapy, over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, wearing a support hose and possibly surgery to remove the infected veins. You can create blood flow by working the muscles just past the pain tolerance. This type of sore calf muscles requires that you visit with your doctor however, to prevent further damaging yourself during treatments.