The calf muscle is actually a group of muscles located on the back of the lower leg, between the knee and the ankle. Having pain in your calf muscle is not a good thing. It can often be the result of a much more serious problem that should be looked at by a medical professional.

Man suffering from calf muscle pain.
Calf muscle pain can be the result of simple overuse to nerve damage and blood clots.

Where is My Calf Muscle?

The calf muscles are a group of muscles located on the back of the lower leg, between the knee and the ankle. There are two main calf muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

The gastrocnemius muscle is the larger of the two and is located on the back of the upper leg, just below the knee. It has two heads or points of origin, one from the medial condyle of the femur (the bony bump on the inner side of the knee) and one from the lateral condyle of the femur (the bony bump on the outer side of the knee). The gastrocnemius muscle then merges into the Achilles tendon, which attaches to the heel bone.

The soleus muscle is located below the gastrocnemius muscle and is flat and broad in shape. It originates from the tibia and fibula bones in the lower leg and also merges into the achilles tendon.

Diagram of the lower leg muscles.
The calf muscle is actually a group of muscles in the lower leg.

What to do If My Calf Muscles Hurt?

The calf muscles are responsible for plantarflexion, or pointing the foot downward, as well as for helping to flex the knee. They are also involved in walking, running, and jumping.

The calf muscles can become sore or injured due to overuse, muscle strains, or other medical conditions. Stretching and strengthening exercises, proper footwear, and other preventative measures can help keep the calf muscles healthy and reduce the risk of injury.

There are several reasons why your calf muscle may be hurting, including:

  1. Muscle strain or sprain: Overstretching or tearing the muscle fibers in the calf can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.
  2. Muscle cramp: A sudden and involuntary contraction of the calf muscle can cause sharp pain and tightness.
  3. Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can lead to muscle cramps and soreness, including in the calf muscle.
  4. Peripheral artery disease (PAD): This is a condition where the blood vessels that carry blood to your legs become narrow, reducing blood flow to the muscles and causing pain.
  5. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): A blood clot in the deep veins of the leg can cause calf pain, swelling, and redness.
  6. Sciatica: This is a condition where the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down to the feet, becomes compressed or irritated, causing pain in the calf.
  7. Achilles tendonitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, can cause pain and stiffness in the calf.

Get Help for Lower Leg Pain

The treatment for calf muscle pain will depend on the underlying cause. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) can help reduce pain and swelling associated with muscle strains or sprains. Stretching and strengthening exercises, physical therapy, and medications may also be recommended depending on the cause of the pain.

If you are experiencing calf pain, it’s important to speak with the healthcare professionals at STARS Physical Therapy to determine the underlying cause and the most appropriate treatment.

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