Calf Pain

Causes of Calf Pain

Generally, with age, the calf muscles become less flexible. Tight, inflexible calf muscles put more load on the Achilles tendon, especially during activities such as tennis, which require rapid changes in direction. This can lead to a strained or ruptured tendon. Wearing high heels may also cause tightness and shortening of the calf muscles, which can set the stage for a tendon rupture.

Calf pain is also associated with other foot conditions and medical conditions, including the following:

Achilles tendinitis: As noted above, tight, inflexible calf muscles put extra stress on the Achilles tendon, especially during and when first starting a vigorous exercise program. See the next section on prevention and treatment for a few simple stretching exercises.

Deep vein thrombosis: Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. It's a serious condition that has been linked to certain medications, medical conditions or sitting for long periods (especially in pressurized airliner cabins). Symptoms may include: swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg; pain or tenderness in the leg, which you may feel only when standing or walking; increased warmth in the area of the leg, such as the calf, that's swollen or painful; and red or discolored skin on the leg. If you suspect you have DVT, see your doctor immediately.

Muscle cramp: Just about everyone will experience a muscle cramp, often in the calf muscle, at some point. The main causes are muscle fatigue from prolonged activity, lack of conditioning (i.e., the leg muscles don’t stretch and contract properly); and heat, dehydration and loss of electrolytes. Muscle cramps generally are not serious, but if you get them frequently, see your doctor to determine the cause.

Plantar fasciitis: Tight calf muscles that make it difficult to dorsiflex your foot (bring your toes up toward your shin) is a risk factor for this painful foot condition. If you do try to force your foot upward without properly stretching, you are likely to experience calf pain.

Sciatica: The sciatic nerve controls muscles in the back of your knee and lower leg. When you have sciatica, you have pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling that often start in the lower back and extend down your leg to your calf, foot, or toes. Various exercises can help reduce the pain and/or likelihood of developing sciatica. Pain injections are another option. If sciatica is due to a lumbar herniated disk, and you experience prolonged pain, surgery may be suggested.

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