Calf strain


A strained calf causes painful swelling in the calf that is associated with a hardening of the muscles. The strain is caused by overstretching the muscle. If there is a strain, the muscles are stretched beyond their limits. The individual muscle fibers remain intact in the event of a muscle strain, but the smallest units of a muscle, which are technically known as sarcomeres, are affected. The defect is caused by the muscle spindles that are found in every muscle when the muscles are pulled. Muscle spindles measure the length of a muscle and can regulate it in coordination with the central nervous system. If there is a rapid change in load or overexertion in the course of sport, the muscle spindles cannot react quickly enough to take part in the muscle stretching. They then send signals to the central nervous system, which in turn sends out a signal that ensures that the muscle contracts as quickly as possible in order to avoid muscle injury.

As a result, the muscle is painfully hardened. The strain causes inflammation, which causes the accompanying pain of a muscle strain. The calf strain must be differentiated diagnostically from a muscle fiber tear or a muscle tear, in which the muscle is severely damaged. The muscle strain, together with the muscle fiber tear and muscle tear, is one of the closed muscle injuries, since the skin or tissue remains uninjured. There is also no external trauma, such as a punch or kick. Often the muscle strain is also not visible from the outside.


Characteristically, a strained calf manifests itself as a painful pulling in the calf with accompanying pain Hardening of the muscle. The pain often increases continuously: In the beginning there is usually only a slight pullingwhich then develops into severe pain, until eventually a real pain Muscle cramp can arise. The pain occurs immediately after the muscle is overloaded, both at rest and under stress. Compared to a ruptured muscle fiber or a ruptured muscle, the pain of a strain is less harmful and it usually occurs does not result in a loss of muscle strength.

In the beginning, the mobility of the leg is hardly restricted, while then there are also increasing restrictions, so that if necessary at some point the leg can hardly be moved. This course makes it easy to distinguish a muscle strain from a muscle fiber tear, as in the latter the pain occurs suddenly after the movement that caused it. This pain is often accompanied by swelling in the affected area. Rarely occurs with a calf strain bruise this is more common with a ruptured muscle fiber or tear.


On the one hand, a strained calf is often caused by overloading the affected muscle. this happens often on a run uphill or on uneven terrain. Unnatural movements can also lead to muscle strain. Typical situations in which a calf strain occurs are: Twist on an uneven path, slipping on the stairs or making hasty movements while exercising. As a result, overloading does not always have to be the trigger for the strained calf, because too jerky and rapid movements can lead to overstretching of the muscle. For example, when suddenly accelerating or stopping a movement, this is especially the case with ball sports.

The musculature was common not warmed up enough or the muscle is already tiredso that a muscle strain can occur more easily. Just at cold temperatures a sufficient warm-up program should be ensured. In the summer when it is very warm there is also an increased risk of a strain because the body has more liquid and Electrolytes be withdrawn. Therefore, especially in summer, you should make sure that you drink enough.

In general, the more untrained the muscle is, the more vulnerable he is towards overstretching. If pulling in the lower or upper thigh muscles is felt during strong or rapid movement, the training should be stopped. The calf strain, together with the thigh strain, is one of the most common types of muscle strain.


The diagnosis is made relatively quickly by the doctor after a conversation and a physical examination. In order to substantiate the suspicion, the doctor will examine the affected muscle Tenderness and feel muscle hardness. The whole thing is seldom supplemented by an ultrasound examination or magnetic resonance tomography. This is only the case if a muscle fiber tear or the like has to be ruled out, which can actually happen based on the symptoms. Imaging can only detect a torn muscle fiber or tear, but not a muscle strain, since the muscle strain does not damage the muscle fibers.


The aim of treatment is to restore the affected muscle to relax. Therapy should be started as soon as possible after the damage has occurred. It is important that a strained calf is healed as far as possible before exercising again. Otherwise, there is a risk of a ruptured muscle fiber or rupture. Should a complication occur or symptoms that cannot be classified, a doctor should be consulted for treatment. Above all, they are suitable for treatment cooling measureslike using ice packs or cool packs. The cold serves to reduce pain and contain the resulting swelling. However, the ice should not be applied directly to the skin, but rather be wrapped with a kitchen towel, for example, to prevent the skin from freezing.

In addition to ice packs, you can also use cooling Pain gels or Pain creams how arnica cream is applied to the area. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also used for a strained calf. If the pain is too severe, pain relievers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or diclofenac can also be used. Ibuprofen and Diclofenac have another at the same time useful anti-inflammatory effect. In addition to cooling the area, a bandage should also be placed around the calf. The bandage should be about ten centimeters wide and tied so tightly that the pain is prevented, but not so strong that the blood flow in the leg is blocked. The bandage is used to prevent swelling of the affected area. The association should be at least for two to three days remain on the leg. If sport is continued despite the strained calf, the support must definitely be worn during sport. The also serves to avoid swelling Elevation of the affected leg.

As a result, the leg is supplied with less blood, so that the fluid that has got into the tissue due to the muscle injury can be better transported away. If there is a severe form of calf strain, training should be interrupted for a few weeks. There is a simple motto for therapy or initial measures in the event of a muscle strain. We are talking about the so-called PECH rule: Break, ice, compression and elevation. These measures should definitely be performed in the event of a strained calf. In addition to these basic measures, attempts are often made to massage away the tension or hardening of the muscle or to loosen it by shaking the leg; this is in contrast to a muscle strain, for example Leg cramp mostly unsuccessful. However, it is beneficial several times a day, about Perform stretching exercises five to ten times a day.

During the strained calf phase, shoes with good soles should be worn. For this are best suited Running shoes, as well as insoles (ideally cork inserts) below the heel, so that the calf muscles are relieved by raising the shoe. Should go barefoot avoided if possible because the calf muscles are particularly stressed. On the other hand, it is suitable for aftercare warmth in the form of heat compresses or massage applications. Before you really get back into sport, you should consult a doctor to be on the safe side, who can assess whether this makes sense. If you have a slight calf strain, you can usually start again after a few days, but you shouldn't overdo it at the beginning.


If you often have to struggle with calf problems, this can be prevented by choosing the right footwear. The shoes should above all higher in the heel area and be sturdy and if possible one fixed heel counter have. In addition to appropriate footwear, you should look for yourself before any exercise stretch thoroughly and so warm up the muscles, whereby the stretching especially should be aimed at the calf. Because muscles that have not been warmed up are more sensitive to high or rapid stress. The warm-up exercises should be controlled and not too fast. Furthermore, sport should be done to a healthy extent and overexertion should be avoided. Physiotherapy can also be useful for prevention in people who have often suffered from strained calves. It is true, however, that you cannot safely prevent a calf strain, but only reduce the risk of it.