A calf muscle strain is a partial or complete tear of the small fibers of the muscles. The calf muscles are located in the back of your lower leg.
The Calf Muscles
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A calf muscle strain can be caused by:
Factors that increase your chance of developing a calf muscle strain:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Most calf muscle strains can be diagnosed with a physical exam. Images may be needed of the area if severe damage is suspected. Images may be taken with MRI scan or ultrasound.
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:
Your muscle will need time to heal. RICE is often the main part of treatment:
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.
A physical therapist will assess the muscle. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to stretch and strengthen the muscle.
American Council on Exercise
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Armfield DR. Sports-related muscle injury in the lower extremity. Clin Sports Med. 2006;25(4):803-42.
Campbell JT. Posterior calf injury. Foot Ankle Clin. 2009 Dec;14(4):761-771.
Douis H, Gillett M, et al. Imaging in the diagnosis, prognostication, and management of lower limb muscle injury. Semin Musculoskelet Radiol. 2011 Feb;15(1):27-41.
Muscle strain (pulled muscle). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsortho.org/muscle_strain.html. Accessed February 29, 2016.
Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/sprains-strains-and-tears.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed February 29, 2016.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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