calf pain

Calf pain – Ouch!

Calf pain can be severe enough to stop a person walking or just a mild nuisance!

Calf pain varies from person to person and can vary in nature.  For some, calf pain feels like a sharp pain in the back of the lower leg or a dull ache with stiffness!

The calf is comprised of two muscles:

  1. Gastrocnemius
  2. Soleus

These muscles meet at the Achilles tendon, which attaches directly to the heel.

There are many conditions that can affect the calf as well as other tissues around it.  Fortunately, many of the causes of calf pain are easily treatable!

Below are some common conditions that can be associated with calf pain:

  1. Calf Strains

Probably one of the most common causes of calf pain, they usually occur due to overuse, fatigue or improper use of the muscle.

The symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the strain, however, most people will experience sharp, sudden pain with tenderness in the affected area.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden, sharp pain at the back of the lower leg
  • Swelling and/or bruising – but not always
  • Pain is usually in the middle of the muscle where the gastrocnemius connects to the Achilles tendon
  • Tenderness when pressing the affected area
  1. Sciatica

Sciatica is leg pain caused by a pinched nerve.  This nerve controls muscles in the lower leg and back of the knee.

Symptoms include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the lower back, buttock, leg, or foot
  • Moderate to severe pain in the lower back, buttock and leg
  • Pain that gets worse on movement
  • A feeling of “pins and needles” in legs, toes and feet
  • Burning, “electric shock” sensations into the leg
  • Difficulty walking or standing for prolonged periods of time
  1. Calf muscle cramps

Muscle cramps are sudden, painful contractions of the muscles.  They can last for a few seconds or several minutes at a time. Fortunately, calf muscle cramps are usually temporary, however they can cause significant pain and discomfort.

Causes of cramp include:

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of stretching
  • Weak muscles
  • Prolonged physical activity
  • Taking certain medications

Symptoms include:

  • Painful contractions in the calf
  • Tightness that can last for several hours after the episode
  • Stiff feet and toes
  • See or feel a hard “lump” of muscle tissue beneath the skin
  1. Achilles tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is a tough, fibrous band that connects the calf muscle to the heel.

If the calf muscles are particularly tight it can put extra pressure on the Achilles tendon, which in turn will cause calf pain.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the area, particularly in the morning
  • Pain in the heel and along the length of the tendon when walking or running
  • Swelling and heat in the heel or along the tendon
  • Pain in the Achilles tendon when touched or moved
  • Difficulty standing on one toe
  1. Calf compartment syndrome

There are two types of compartment syndrome:

  • Acute
  • Chronic

Acute compartment syndrome

This is an extremely painful condition that can occur in the calf muscle or in both legs, typically after a trauma or severe injury, such as a fracture or broken bone.

It occurs when excess blood or fluid builds up underneath a band of tough tissues in the body that is unable to stretch adequately.  This build up of fluid places extra pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the lower leg. The pain associated with acute compartment syndrome may be more severe than the injury itself!

Symptoms include:

  • Severe pain that does not improve after rest or medication
  • Severe tightness or feeling of fullness within the muscle
  • Trouble moving the affected area
  • Numbness

Chronic Compartment syndrome

Chronic compartment syndrome also known as exertional compartment syndrome and occurs when pain is felt whilst exercising. However, the pain stops when the exercise stops.

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty moving the foot
  • Numbness
  • Visible bulging or enlarging of muscles

As with any pain, if your symptoms are severe or do not resolve on their own within a few days, it is best to seek advice and treatment from your Chiropractor or other qualified medical professional.

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or