Causes of calf pain

Calf pain is caused by a muscle problem, nerve disorders or vascular problems in the lower part of the leg.

The pain can manifest itself equally in the right or left calf.



The calf begins below the hollow of the knee and ends at the back of the leg at the beginning of the Achilles tendon, which leads to the heel below the ankle.

It consists of three muscles, the so-called triceps surae.
This consists of the two-headed calf muscle (gastrocnemius mediale muscle (inner head) and lateral (lateral head)) and the floe muscle (soleus muscle).
The gastrocnemius muscle has two origins, which attach to either side of the lower part of the femur above the knee.
Gastrocnemius is a superficial muscle that runs just under the skin.
The soleus lies lower, under the gastronemius.
It originates at the upper part of the tibia, immediately below the knee.
The two muscles unite in the middle of the tibia and form the Achilles tendon, which attaches to the rear part of the heel.

Causes of calf pain

Muscle injuries to the calf
A torn muscle in the calf is the most common cause of the pain. Such an accident often occurs during sports activities. The most common symptoms of a muscle strain on the calf are:

  • twinge
  • Swelling
  • Bruising or hematomas.

Strain of the medial calf muscle
The medial or internal gastrocnemius is the part of the calf muscle that is most likely to be strained.
The pain is localized in the affected area and is felt especially in the first 2-3 days even when walking.
On the following days, the symptoms show up when the muscle contracts or stretches.

Strain of the sole muscle of the foot (plantaris muscle)
The plantaris muscle is a delicate, delicate and small structure. This muscle is absent in 10-20% of the population.
The plantar muscle runs along the gastrocnemius.
The muscle can rupture and cause sudden pain.

Rupture of the Achilles tendon
The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel.
With a rupture of the Achilles tendon, the calf pain is felt on the lower part of the leg and at the back of the heel.

Baker’s cyst
Baker’s cyst is not a true cyst, but an accumulation of fluid in the area of the hollow of the knee.
If a large amount of fluid accumulates, it can lead to pain at the back of the leg.
Causes of swelling in the hollow of the knee are meniscus damage, damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (LCA, ligamentum cruciatum anterius) and knee joint osteoarthritis.
Rarely, a Baker’s cyst can burst and lead to the ingress of the fluid into the tissues of the calf.

Cramps in the legs
Cramps in the legs are often the cause of calf pain.
The symptoms are:

  • intermittent pain, especially at night,
  • ankle stiffness,
  • hardened muscle.

Heat relieves the symptoms.
Anyone can get leg cramps, especially after running or cycling training.

Lactic acid Everyone thinks that the accumulation of lactic acid
leads to muscle pain, but this view is not correct.
During sports activities, lactic acid is formed in the body.
The presence of lactic acid causes burning.
However, lactic acid is absorbed within an hour. Sore muscles last about 24-30 hours.
Doctors have found that excessive stress leads to microcracks.

Bone fracture, ankle distortion
The fracture of the tibial fracture and fibula (fibular fracture) or an ankle distortion (ligament injury) cause pain in the leg.
For mild sprains, PECH treatment is recommended:

  1. Pause
  2. Ice
  3. Compression
  4. High storage.

In case of a severe sprain or fracture, it should be cooled with ice and a doctor should be consulted. The doctor may recommend wearing an orthosis.
The physical treatment improves blood circulation and promotes the healing process.

“Growing pains” in children
Children often experience pain in their legs during growth, especially the knee, calves, thighs and groin.
The symptoms occur mainly at night and the pain is intermittent and only felt at some times.

Pinched nerve
Pressure on the nerves of the leg can provoke burning pain, numbness in the calf and tingling in the foot.
The compressed nerve can be the sciatic nerve (sciaticadic), which originates at the back, the tibial innerv (tibialis) or the common fibula (peroneus communis).
Sciatica, after awakening in the morning, produces greater pain when the back is bent forward.

With infection, the skin is:

  • reddened
  • tender,
  • turgid
  • overheated.

The doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If the symptoms worsen or fever develops, a doctor must be called.

Osteosarcoma (bone tumor) can develop at knee level and on the shin, like bone metastases.
In this case, the pain is persistent (even at rest) and in the last stages of the disease is accompanied by serious symptoms.

Vascular diseases (veins and arteries)

The following are the most common causes of circulatory disorders:

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease
The lining of the leg arteries may be damaged or hardened (atherosclerosis). When arteries narrow or close, blood circulation decreases.
This leads to pain or cramps in the legs when walking, ascending or descending stairs or other activities.

Blood clot
A blood clot is often the cause of calf pain, especially if the symptoms do not stem from an accident.
Blood clots can cause:

  1. deep vein thrombosis in the leg,
  2. Blocking of the circulation.

Most blood clots occur in the thigh or calf.
The likelihood of blood clots is higher if the individual:

  • is bedridden for a long time,
  • is overweight,
  • Smokes
  • anticoagulant medication.

This can cause swelling and calf pain.

If you suspect you have thrombosis, you must immediately consult your doctor or an emergency room.
The emboli (parts of the clot that peel off) enter the bloodstream and can cause a pulmonary embolism or stroke.

Phlebitis Circulatory disorders are also caused by phlebitis
, which is an inflammation of the veins that occurs mainly at calf height.
Causes include vasoconstriction, trauma, injuries or surgical interventions that prevent the person from shifting their body weight to the affected leg, etc. Symptoms include severe pain in the calf, stiffness and hardening when touching.

Varicose veins
If venous valves and venous walls are weakened, a varicose vein can develop, which is manifested by a bluish discoloration of the vein near the skin surface.
Varicose veins can cause pain, especially after prolonged standing. Wearing support stockings is recommended. If varicose veins cause severe pain, the doctor must be consulted regarding other treatments.

Pain in the calf muscles during pregnancy

Causes of calf pain during pregnancy

Muscle pain in the calf has many causes: the most common is increasing body weight.
The expectant mother increases her body weight in the second trimester. If the uterus expands, pressure is created on blood vessels and nerves in the legs.

As a result, blood flow may be reduced or nerve pain in the leg may occur.

Calf pain while running

Causes of calf pain when running:

  • Intensive training
  • Pulled muscle
  • Circulatory
  • Insufficient warm-up
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of mineral salts
  • Hyperpronation of the foot

Calf pain when walking

Causes include:

  • Cramps
  • Muscle tension
  • Lack of nutrition
  • Circulatory

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