Calf injury or pain is a common occurrence in sports, including running, jumping, hopping, and landing activities. Your calf muscle group primarily consists of two muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) attached to your Achilles tendon.
Calf injuries can occur in both muscle and tendon structures. Excessive forces commonly cause damage during explosive contraction, eccentric control loading or when your calf muscles fatigue.
Your calf muscles protect your shin bone from the rear and both sides. However, excessive load through your shin bone (tibia) can result in shin pain and related injuries.
For specific information regarding your calf pain, please seek the advice of your physiotherapist.
Referred Calf Pain
Calf pain is a common symptom of referred pain, e.g. Sciatica.
Sciatica is a condition caused by a pinched nerve in your lower back. Fortunately, Your physiotherapist can usually treat it successfully with physiotherapy. The occasional patient requires spinal surgery.
Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT’s are the most severe concerns and can result in pulmonary embolism (PE), stroke or potentially death! Your calf assessment should exclude the possibility of a DVT as an URGENT PRIORITY.
Symptoms and signs of Calf DVT include:
- Calf swelling & pain
- Redness & Warmth to the touch
- Worsening leg pain when bending the foot and toes backwards.
- Leg cramps (especially at night or in the calf)
- Skin discolouration
Risk factors for DVT/PE include:
- Prolonged sitting or immobility
- Recent surgery
- Recent trauma to the lower body
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Pregnancy or recent childbirth
- High Altitudes
- Oestrogen therapy or birth control pills
- Advanced age
- Medical conditions that affect the veins
If you suspect a DVT or PE, please urgently consult your doctor or physiotherapist to assess and exclude a DVT or PE.
Calf Pain Treatment
With accurate assessment and early treatment, most calf pain responds quickly to physiotherapy treatment, allowing you to resume pain-free and healthy daily living activities promptly.
Please ask your physiotherapist for their professional treatment advice.
Calf Pain FAQs
7 Ways to Prevent a Future Leg Injury?You may reduce the chance of leg injury by following these seven simple tips:
- Warm-up before you exercise.
- Warm down when you finish. Warm down usually includes some simple stretching exercises and plyometric drills.
- Wear well-fitting shoes, boots or braces that provide excellent joint support.
- Tape or brace your ankles/knees in high-risk sports such as football, basketball, volleyball and netball.
- Avoid activities on slippery, wet or uneven surfaces, or in areas with poor lighting.
- Strengthen your leg muscles and regularly use a wobble disc or balance board
- Maintain general functional fitness.
Common Youth Leg Injuries
Why are Children's Injuries Different to Adults?Adolescent injuries differ from adult injuries, mainly because the bones are still growing. The growth plates (physis) are cartilaginous (strong connective tissue) areas of the bones from which the bones elongate or enlarge. Repetitive stress or sudden large forces can cause injury to these areas.
Common Adolescent Leg InjuriesIn the adolescent leg, common injuries include:
Osgood-Schlatter's DiseasePain at the bump just below the knee cap (tibia tubercle). Overuse injuries commonly occur here. The tibia tubercle is the anchor point of your mighty quadriceps (thigh) muscles. It is because of excessive participation in running and jumping sports that the tendon pulls bone off and forms a painful lump that will remain forever. This type of injury responds to reduced activity and physiotherapy. More info: Osgood Schlatter's Disease
Sinding-Larsen-Johansson DiseasePain at the lower pole of the knee cap (patella). Overstraining causes Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disease. It is because of excessive participation in running and jumping sports that the tendon pulls bone off the knee cap. This type of injury responds to reduced activity and physiotherapy. More info: Sinding Larsen Johansson Syndrome
Anterior Knee PainAnterior knee pain or patellofemoral syndrome frequently gets passed off as growing pains. Cause of this pain includes overuse, muscle imbalance, poor flexibility, poor alignment, or more commonly, a combination of these. Anterior knee pain is one of the most challenging adolescent knee injuries to sort out and treat. Accurate diagnosis and treatment with the assistance of a physiotherapist with a particular interest in this problem usually resolves the condition quickly. More info: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Knee LigamentsThe cartilage between the leg bones have a better blood supply and are more elastic in adolescents than in adults. As adolescents near the end of bone growth, their injuries become more adult-like, hence more meniscal and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are likely. MCL (medial collateral ligament) injuries result from a lateral blow to the knee. Pain felt on the inner side (medially) of the knee. MCL injuries respond well to protective bracing and conservative treatment. More info: Knee Ligament Injuries
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuriesThis traumatic knee injury is significant. Non-contact injuries of the ACL are becoming more common than contact injuries of the ACL. Adolescent females are at high risk. Combination injuries with MCL or menisci are common. Surgical reconstruction is needed if the adolescent wishes to continue participating in "stop-and-start" sports. More info: ACL Injury
Meniscal injuriesYour meniscus is crescent-shaped cartilage between the thigh bone (femur) and lower leg bone (tibia). Meniscal injuries usually result from twisting. Swelling, catching, and locking of the knee are common. If physiotherapy treatment does not resolve these types of damages within six weeks, they may require arthroscopic surgery. More info: Meniscus Tear, Discoid Meniscus
Sever's DiseaseHeel pain is commonplace in young adolescents due to the stresses of their Achilles tendon pulling upon its bony insertion point on the heel (calcaneum). It is a common overuse injury as a result of excessive volume of training and competition, particularly when loads are increased dramatically in a short period. Diminished flexibility and muscle-tendon strength mismatching may predispose you. Physiotherapy, reduced activity, taping and orthotics are some of the best ways to manage this debilitating condition for the active young athlete. More info: Sever's Disease
Ankle SprainAn ankle sprain is probably the most common injury seen in sports. Ankles sprains involve stretching of the ligaments and usually occur when the foot twists inward. Treatment includes active rest, ice, compression and physiotherapy rehabilitation. An ankle sprain usually improves in 2-6 weeks with the correct treatment. Your ankle physiotherapist should check even simple ankle sprains. A residually stiff ankle post-sprain can predispose you to several other lower limb issues More info: Sprained Ankle
Patellar InstabilityPatellar (kneecap) instability can range from partial dislocation (subluxation) to dislocation with a fracture. Partial dislocation treatment is conservative. Dislocation with or without fracture is a much more severe injury and usually will require surgery. More info: Patella Dislocation
Osteochondritis DissecansThe separation of a piece of bone from its bed in the knee joint is Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). This injury is usually due to one major macro event with repetitive macro trauma that prevents complete healing. This injury is potentially severe. Treatment varies from rest to surgery. An Orthopaedic Surgeon's opinion is vital. More info: Juvenile Osteochondritis Dissecans (JOCD)
Growth Plate FracturesA fracture through the growth plate can be a severe injury that can stop the bone from growing correctly. These fractures should be treated by an Orthopaedic Surgeon, as some will require surgery.
Image source: https://radiologyassistant.nl/pediatrics/hip/hip-pathology-in-childrenAn avulsion fracture occurs when a small segment of bone attached to a tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main bone. The hip, elbow and ankle are the most common locations for lower limb avulsion fractures in the young sportsperson. Treatment of an avulsion fracture typically includes active rest, ice and protecting the affected area. This period of active rest is followed by controlled exercises that help restore range of motion, improve muscle strength and promote bone healing. Your physiotherapist should supervise your post-avulsion exercises. Most avulsion fractures heal very well. You may need to spend a few weeks on crutches if you have an avulsion fracture around your hip. An avulsion fracture to your foot or ankle may require a cast or walking boot. In rare cases, an excessive gap between the avulsed bone fragment and main bone may not rejoin naturally. Surgery may be necessary to reunite them. In children, avulsion fractures that involve the growth plates also might require surgery. All avulsion fractures should be reviewed and managed by your trusted physiotherapist or an Orthopaedic Surgeon. For more information regarding your youth sports injury, please consult your physiotherapist or doctor.
Common Youth Leg Injuries
Pelvis & Hip
- Osgood Schlatter's Disease
- Sinding Larsen Johannson Disease
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Patella Dislocation
- Meniscus Tear
- Discoid Meniscus
- Juvenile Osteochondritis Dissecans
Heel & Ankle
Common Youth & Teenager Sports InjuriesCommon Youth Neck & Back Pain Common Youth Arm Injuries
Why Do Physiotherapists Prescribe You Exercises?The prescription of exercise appropriate to you and your injury or fitness level is one of the many professional skills of a physiotherapist. Whether you have suffered an acute injury, chronic deconditioning or are recovering from surgery, the correct exercise prescription is essential. That's why your physiotherapist's knowledge and skills will personalise your exercise dose. Your physiotherapist not only is educated in injury diagnosis but also exercise physiology or the science of exercise. This training enables your physiotherapist to assess and diagnose your injury, plus also to prescribe injury, fitness or age-appropriate activities targeted to you now.
What Exercises Should You Do?Your exercises shouldn't be painful. Please take caution with some overzealous exercise prescribers who believe that the more painful the activity, the better. Thus simply isn't true—notably, the frail, immunosuppressed, deconditioned or post-operative person. You'll find that your physiotherapist will thoroughly examine you and prescribe a series of exercises suitable for you in quantities that will not injure you further. Please seek an exercise expert, such as your physiotherapist, when you are planning your rehabilitation.
What Happens When You Stop Exercises?Without some simple exercises, we know that specific muscles can become weak. When these supporting muscles are weak, your injured structures are inadequately supported and predispose you to linger symptoms or further injury. You can also over-activate adjacent muscles that may lead to further damage. It is also essential to understand that even if you are "in good shape", you may have crucial but weak localised or stability muscles. When you have an injury, you should perform specific exercises that specifically strengthen the muscles around your injury and the adjacent joints. Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle function and prescribe the right exercises specific for your needs. The exercises prescribed will usually be relatively simple, and do not require any special weights equipment, and can be performed safely at home.
Would You Stop Your Daily Prescription Drugs?Your physiotherapist will prescribe your individualised dose or exercises. They are using their professional expertise to optimise your exercise dose. Would you just stop taking your regular blood pressure medication because you were too busy or didn't think it was working? We would hope not! Exercise, when prescribed by an expert such as your physiotherapist, should be treated as your recommended dose. Just like when you don't take your blood pressure medication, you can't expect the drugs to work of you don't take it as prescribed by your health professional. So, next time you skip your "exercise dose" just remember that you are not putting your health first. If you have any questions, please contact your Physio Works physiotherapist for your best care.
What Causes Muscular Pain?You know the feeling… dreaded “stiff and sore muscles” a day or two after you’ve done a little more exercise than usual. Shortly after exercise begins, a mix of lactic and carbonic acids builds up in muscle tissue. These acids are waste products of muscle contractions. Don’t worry these acids are normal. To produce “energy”, muscles burn stored glycogen. Lactic and carbonic acids are by-products of this metabolic process. The good news is that most of these acids convert back into glycogen and are restored in preparation for your next bout of exercise. Pain and muscle fatigue can exist until the acid levels in your muscles return to normal.
How Does Massage Help?Massage helps to eliminate the irritation caused by these acidic wastes. Research shows that massage can increase muscle recovery much quicker than rest alone.
Why is Massage So Useful When You Exercise?Regular exercise causes many body changes. To meet the demand for more oxygen and nutrients, one improvement is the increase in blood vessels to the muscles. This circulation increase helps to eliminate the waste products and toxins that build up with exercise. Importantly, it can take several weeks to develop improved muscular circulation. Until the blood supply increases, you will have trouble with oxygen and nutrients supply. This allows toxic wastes to back up and stagnate. You will experience soreness, pain and stiffness. Many exercise enthusiasts regard aches and pains as the inevitable price to be paid. This is usually not true.
What about Muscle & Joint Stiffness?Massage eases muscle and joint stiffness. Using massage strokes to reduce muscle tension and passive movement to stretch the connective tissue found around joints, massage will improve your performance. Massage also lengthens muscle and tendon units to help prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
What about Soft Tissue Injuries and Massage?Massage aids recovery from soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains. Tissue repair accelerates by increasing circulation in the injured area. Massage therapy can help speed, improve recovery, and reduce discomfort from soft tissue injuries.
Massage is Drug-Free TreatmentMassage is a drugless therapy. Headaches, insomnia, neck and back pain, digestive disorders including constipation and spastic colon, arthritis, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome and muscular aches and pains are just some of the problems that can respond to massage therapy.
Private Health Insurance Rebates
PhysioWorks Physiotherapy and Remedial Massage are more affordable than you think. Your Private Health Insurance (PHI) usually pays for the majority of your treatment fees, leaving you with only a small gap payment.
However, Private Health Funds do vary their rebates payable depending upon the level of cover that you have taken. Some funds have kept up with the costs of modern medicine whereas, sadly others haven't, with rebates similar to what they were a decade ago.
HICAPS - Instant Health Fund Claims
Most health funds are members of the HICAPS instant claims system. Swipe your health insurance card at our reception counter, and you can instantly claim your physiotherapy treatment via our online Hicaps System. Remedial Massage is claimable via Hicaps for some but not all funds. For more information, please visit Hicaps for the latest funds which can use their instant claiming system.
Private health insurance rebates are available for all of our physiotherapists. Instant claims are possible via our in-practice Hicaps system.
- All Private Health Insurance Funds including BUPA, Medibank Private, HCF
- For a full list of Hicaps instant claim funds see here: Hicaps Funds
- HCF More for Muscles Program
PhysioWorks practitioners are registered providers for government, Workcover and insurance companies including:
- Australia Post; Coles Myer; Woolworths
- Department of Veterans' Affairs
- CTP & Sports Insurers