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What is the cause of calf muscle pain?

Calf pain may be a minor irritation or it can be severe enough to prohibit a person from walking for extended periods of time.

Calves, as well as the blood vessels and other structures around them, may be affected by a number of different illnesses. Fortunately, many of the causes of calf discomfort are quickly alleviated with simple treatments.


Calf pain may be caused by a range of circumstances and situations, including the following:

1. Muscle strain

Muscle strain

In order for calf muscle strain to occur, the muscular fibers in the calf must be torn either partly or entirely.

The intensity of the symptoms may vary depending on the degree of the strain, but the majority of individuals will suffer abrupt, acute pain and soreness at the region of the strained calf muscle in the affected leg.

2. Muscle cramp

Muscle cramps in the calf are a typical problem among persons who engage in regular physical activity.

Although calf muscle cramps are typically very transitory, they may cause substantial pain and discomfort in the affected leg.

Calf muscle cramps may be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • lack of stretching
  • prolonged physical activity
  • weak muscles
  • dehydration
  • a loss of electrolytes through sweating

3. Arterial claudication

Calf pain may occur as a result of constriction or blockages in the arteries that provide blood flow to the legs in certain people. This condition is referred to as arterial claudication.

Walking might be painful if you have arterial claudication since it demands blood to flow to your lower legs when you are moving.

The calf discomfort that a person has is caused by the blood having difficulties moving due to constriction (claudication).

A person suffering from arterial claudication may not feel any discomfort when at rest, but will feel pain after only a few minutes of walking.

4. Neurogenic claudication

Neurogenic claudication is a condition that arises when the nerves that supply the legs are pinched, impairing their capacity to communicate with the lower extremities.

The most common cause of neurogenic claudication is a disease known as spinal stenosis.

This disorder arises when the bones of the spinal column constrict, resulting in increased pressure on the nerves in the area. Sciatica is a kind of neurogenic claudication that affects the lower back.

Neurogenic claudication symptoms include, in addition to calf pain, the following:

  • pain while walking
  • pain after prolonged standing
  • pain that also occurs in the thighs, lower back, or buttocks
  • pain that usually improves when a person leans forward at the waist

When a person is at rest, they may also have calf discomfort caused by neurogenic claudication.

5. Achilles tendinitis

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

If a person’s calf muscles are very tight, the Achilles tendon may be subjected to additional pressure as a result. As a consequence, calf discomfort may be experienced by the individual.

People who have just begun an exercise program or who conduct repeated activities are more prone to develop Achilles tendinitis than those who do not.

Stretching on a regular basis may frequently assist to alleviate discomfort.

6. Compartment syndrome

Delayed onset muscle
Persistent pain in the calf should be addressed by a doctor.

Usually occurring after a person has had a traumatic or severe injury, compartment syndrome is a painful disorder that affects the calf muscle or both legs.

It happens when an excessive amount of blood or fluid accumulates underneath a band of tough tissues in the body that are unable to expand too far. Consequently, pain, swelling, numbness, and tingling are experienced in the lower leg due to the increased pressure placed on the nerves and blood vessels.

Chronic compartment syndrome, also known as exertional compartment syndrome, is another kind of compartment syndrome. When a person gets discomfort when exercising, they are classified as this kind.

Symptoms of chronic compartment syndrome include numbness, noticeable bulging or swelling of muscles, and difficulty moving one’s foot or ankle.

7. Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes)

When a person develops diabetic neuropathy, they are experiencing nerve damage as a result of their diabetes.

High blood sugar levels on a regular basis may cause nerve damage throughout the body, with the hands and feet being the most often affected.

Some people experience shooting pain and discomfort in their calves as a result of the tingling and numbness in their hands and feet.

8. Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a disorder that affects the plantar fascia tissue on the bottom of the foot, which is a tendons and ligaments.

People who have tight calf muscles are more prone to develop plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the calf muscles are unable to support the weight of their feet.

The most typical symptoms of plantar fasciitis include foot discomfort when you first wake up and trouble flexing your foot as you walk.

9. Varicose veins (also known as spider veins)

A condition known as varicose veins is characterized by swollen veins that protrude out of the legs and may seem like cables. These conditions arise when broken valves in a person’s veins enable blood to flow backwards into the body.

Varicose veins are caused by a variety of factors, some of which are as follows:

  • age
  • a family history of varicose veins
  • hormone fluctuations
  • pregnancy
  • obesity
  • lack of physical activity

Varicose veins are most typically seen in the legs, where they may cause discomfort, throbbing, cramping, and aching.

10. Deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot develops in one of the veins in the leg and causes pain. This condition may cause considerable discomfort and can also cause blood flow to the legs to become restricted.

Individuals who have been sitting for extended periods of time, such as on a trip, or who have high blood pressure or blood clotting abnormalities are at greater risk of developing DVT than others.

DVT symptoms include calf discomfort that grows worse while standing or walking, which is typical of the condition. Blood flow abnormalities may also cause swelling and inflammation of the leg, as well as the appearance of red or irritated areas.


The treatment for calf pain will be determined by the underlying source of the discomfort.

The PRICE approach may be used to treat calf pain that has occurred as a consequence of an accident or excessive usage. This abbreviation means:

  • Protection: Dress the injury with a bandage, splint, or immobilizer made of fabric to keep the foot, ankle, or calf from moving and to give the muscles time to recover.
  • Rest: Avoid utilizing the calf muscle for any longer than is absolutely required.
  • Ice:Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 10 to 15 minutes at a time may help to decrease swelling and irritation.
  • Compression: Elevating the leg on pillows will aid in the promotion of circulation and the reduction of swelling.

If the underlying source of the calf pain is not addressed, medicines or other medical treatments may be used to alleviate the pain.


The practice of warming up by walking at a moderate speed before participating in more strenuous exercise may assist to avoid muscular strain problems from developing.

Along with these methods, a person may opt to do some light stretching after an exercise session to help alleviate muscular stiffness following the session.

Before starting a stretching regimen, a person should always consult with their doctor to verify that the stretches would not worsen an existing injury.

Stretches for calf pain include the following:

Foot flexion

  • Sit on the floor with the legs extended.
  • Flex the toes by pulling the toes back toward the body. The heels may slightly leave the ground.
  • Hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds, then release.
  • Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Gastrocnemius stretch

  • Stand facing a wall.
  • Place one foot about 1 foot in front of the other and lean forward, placing the hands on the wall for stability.
  • Bend the front leg while keeping the back leg straight until a stretch is felt in the calf muscle.
  • Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then release.
  • Repeat five times on each side.

Soleus stretch

  • Stand facing a wall.
  • Place one foot about 1 foot in front of the other and lean forward, placing the hands on the wall for stability
  • Bend both legs while leaning slightly forward. The heels should remain on the ground as the person feels the stretch in the back of the leg.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, the release the stretch.
  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

When should you see the doctor?

If a person suspects they have DVT, they should seek emergency medical care immediately. Symptoms of DVT include discomfort, edema, and warmth in the affected leg on one side.

Other indications that a person may seek immediate calf pain therapy are as follows:

  • fever that is greater than 100°F
  • swollen leg that is pale or cool to the touch
  • sudden extreme swelling in the legs

It is necessary to visit the doctor’s office during normal business hours in order to treat any calf pains. These are some examples:

  • pain while walking
  • unexplained leg swelling
  • varicose veins that are very painful
  • symptoms that do not get better after a few days of at-home care

Making an appointment to visit a doctor if a person is experiencing uncomfortable or persistent calf pain may assist to alleviate their worries and bring peace of mind.


A physical examination will be performed by a doctor in order to identify whether a pulled or strained muscle is the source of the ailment.

The doctor may request a musculoskeletal ultrasound scan if the problem is found to be more serious than previously thought. An ultrasound would be able to distinguish between the following conditions:

Additionally, an ultrasound of the musculoskeletal system may offer direction on injection treatment.



Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.